Reno VA Director wants to serve more female veterans
News 4 & Fox 11 —
They have served our country since it was founded. Today, more than 200,000 American women serve as active duty military members. A woman serving her country is no longer uncommon, however the military's history has impacted how women identify themselves when they leave the service.
Women who have served in the U.S. military have not always identified themselves as veterans and history plays a large role in that.
"You have women out there who may have served as many as 20 years and say 'No, I'm not a veteran,'" explains Charley Smith, a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel.
It wasn't until 1943, that members of the Women's Army Corps were given full military status.
"They get out of the military and our society says it's a male based organization and so they don't really feel that their service counted," says Shelia Jackson, Director of the Reno Regional VA Office.
As a result, there are thousands of women who have earned VA medical benefits, but have never used them.
"Female veterans need to know that they actually have a women's veterans clinic at every VA hospital," says Jackson.
Smith uses the Reno VA services and hopes other female veterans will look into their options.
"Some of the best doctors, some of the best services I've ever received. I have never had a situation where I couldn't get an appointment in a timely manner," says Smith.
Smith says in Nevada there are an estimated 21,000 female veterans, but only about 2,500 have been identified. According to Lance Bailey, the Veterans Service Officer Liaison, the Reno VA currently serves 32,224 patients and only 1,932 are women.
"I would encourage every woman who ever wore a uniform, no matter what uniform it was, no matter what service that they served in, we're looking for you, we want you to come forward," says Smith.
"You earned it. It's not a gift, it's a right. It's something that you are entitled to," Jackson explains about VA benefits for women.
Though, in recent years, the VA has gained negative media attention over a backlog of claims across the country, Jackson says the Reno VA has the resources to take on more female patients.
"If you come into your VA right now, you will receive the care that you so gratefully deserve," says Jackson.
To learn more about the benefits you qualify for visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/ .