Halfaker's CEO Participates in Congressional Roundtable on Women Veterans

Halfaker's CEO, Dawn Halfaker, participated in the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs roundtable on May 20, 2009 to help enhance services to the country’s 1.8 million women veterans.

Dawn Halfaker, a disabled combat veteran, Vice President of the Board of Directors of Wounded Warrior Project, and member of the Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on OIF/OEF Veterans and Families, came together with participants from veteran service organizations, representatives of the VA, and other interested stakeholders to discuss a number of issues that solely affect women or impact female veterans different from male veterans.

Based on her personal experiences with the VA, Dawn believes the current VA culture has lead to multiple system-wide issues for women veterans that require immediate attention.  Dawn stated, "The VA needs to transform its relationship with women veterans into a positive, supportive and accessible experience recognizing the duties of women in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  With women approaching 20% of the U.S. military, the VA must strengthen and improve measures to serve women and ensure quality services delivery.  The needs of women must receive leadership emphasis to help drive such transformational efforts."

Dawn described three specific issues that require immediate attention to best serve women veterans.  First, the VA should provide women veterans segregated treatment and care for military sexual trauma treatment when indicated and ensure an adequate number of female staff members are trained and available to provide these services.  Secondly, the VA should provide child care service options to enable veterans with dependent children to attend appointments.  Thirdly, homeless shelter programs should ensure capabilities exist for women veterans with dependent children.

Kayla Williams, a Grace After Fire Boardmember, expressed the frustrating healthcare concerns that arise from the misconception that women do not participate in combat.  Williams said, "Being in combat is linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but since women are supposedly barred from combat, they may face challenges proving that their PTSD is service-connected.  One of my closest friends was told by a VA doctor that she could not possibly have PTSD for just this reason: he did not believe that she as a woman could have been in combat.  It is vital that all VA employees, particularly health care providers, fully understand that women do see combat in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom so that they can better serve women veterans."

Halfaker is a proud supporter of veterans and is hopeful that the VA will make vital changes in support of women veterans.  Chairman Bob Filner concluded the event with a positive outlook on the future of women veterans’ health care.  "Today’s roundtable brought together experts with a range of different experiences to identify the specific issues facing women veterans," said Chairman Filner.  "Now, with this better understanding, it is our job to work to provide better treatment and more accessible services.  My hope is that these discussions will lead to bold and bipartisan legislation that will effectively tackle the needs of our brave and honored women veterans."

Please visit this link to read more about the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee's Roundtable held to Address Issues Confronting Women Veterans: http://veterans.house.gov/news/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=411

To access the audio multimedia link please visit: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?NewsID=384