Female Vets Feeling Better About VA Care

Chuck Liddy | Stars and Stripes | June 10, 2012

At the opening of a new women’s clinic in the Durham VA Medical Center in 1995, hospital officials planted a Leyland cypress sapling not 5 feet tall. It marked both the outside door to the clinic, where female veterans could enter the building without threading through waiting areas full of men, and, symbolically, a new era in the way the government planned to care for women who had served in its armed forces.

The tree is now 30 feet tall and crowding the door. Like the population of women the VA seeks to serve, it has grown much faster and bigger than expected. By the end of April, the Durham VA and its clinics in Raleigh, Greenville and Morehead City had seen 4,220 women this year, a 22 percent increase over the same time in 2010.

Three other VA medical centers serve the rest of the state. Throughout the system, the number of women using VA medical care has increased 83 percent between fiscal years 2000 and 2009, from 160,000 women to 292,000. Over the same period, men’s use of the VA increased by 50 percent. Even as the Durham facility and the agency at large work to bring more female vets into VA care and expand the services it provides them, they are scrambling to figure out how best to accommodate those new patients...