An article from US News and World Report highlights an important aspect of the healthcare reform debate: overcoming the shortcomings of an already overworked VA hospital system that was designed for an all-male military. The article reports that the 8% of veterans who are female are not getting the treatment they need in VA hospitals:
A Government Accountability Office report released this month found that two of 19 facilities audited did not offer even basic gender-specific services like cervical cancer screenings, and none fully complied with the VA’s policy on privacy for female veterans. Overall, “none of the facilities had fully implemented VA policies pertaining to women veterans’ healthcare,” the report said. Critics say those shortfalls have deterred women from using the system.
Legislation has been passed in the House of Representatives to help correct the VA healthcare system and a similar bill currently waits in the Senate.
However, it may take more than legislation to change a practice that is rooted in a culture of only male soldiers. One female veteran was misdiagnosed because her doctor believed it impossible for her to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if she was not in combat. While women are not permitted on the front lines of battle, the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan makes it impossible to demarcate where the front lines are. Female soldiers are often in the midst of bombs, gunfire, and general warfare and can have the same health risks that men have related with that proximity to war. There is also very little support for women who are victims of sexual assault and the medical professionals are often ill-equipped and have had inadequate training to handle such instances.
The legislation in the U.S. Congress will help to begin reform, including certain provisions such as providing for additional training for the medical professionals, but there is still a lot of work to be done if female veterans are to get adequate care.