16 July 2009

Ms. Foundation Grantees in the News - Congressional Edition

Two Ms. Foundation grantees are in the news with testimony and advocacy to Congress on Veterans' Affairs and Health Care.

Anuradha Bhagwati, Executive Director of Ms. Foundation grantee Service Women's Action Network, testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on the challenges faced by women in accessing health care and benefits, and in the processing of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) claims.

The Veterans' Administration routinely rejects claims for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST), regardless of the evidence a veteran submits.

Bhagwati's prepared testimony concluded with the following call for change:

Recommendations to Bridge the Gaps in Care for Women Veterans:
  1. Require that the VA remedy the shortage of female physicians, female mental health providers and MST counselors at VA hospitals nationwide. Also require that the VA provide the option of female-only counseling groups for female combat veterans, and female- as well as male-only counseling groups for female and male survivors of MST.

  2. Require the VA to implement a program to train, educate, and certify all staff, including administrative and medical, in federal Equal Opportunity regulations and MST, to reduce a discriminatory and hostile atmosphere toward women veterans.

  3. Require the VA to increase accessibility of fee-based care for veterans (both male and female) who have been diagnosed with Military Sexual Trauma.

  4. Require day-care facilities for veterans who are parents, as well as more flexible evening or weekend hours for working veterans and parents, at every VA hospital.

  5. Require the VA to conduct a study into what percentage of claims are denied with a breakdown by gender as well as type of injury/condition, including both combat-related PTSD, and PTSD or other conditions resulting from MST.

  6. Require that VBA claims officers undergo intensive training and education in MST and MST-related medical conditions.

  7. Require that the VBA’s submission requirements for MST claims reflect a reasonable standard, such as proof of MST counseling during or after service, and diagnosis of MST-related medical conditions.

  8. Require the DOD to conduct a retention study to determine the total impact of MST on re-enlistment rates of servicemembers.
Ms. Foundation grantee Raising Women's Voices is working to engage a broad array of women's health advocates in local, state and national health reform discussions to ensure that women's concerns will be addressed and the health care we get will be health care for all. They are cited for their mobilization in a Newsweek article about the negotiations on the subject of abortion and health care reform between Senators Grassley and Baucus. (See Raising Women's Voices and others in our earlier post Reproductive Health: Once Again, Ripe for Conservative Compromise.)

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