Despite women being barred from assignments that could result in engaging in direct combat, more than 650 women have been wounded and more than 120 women have been killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than 230,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet some are finding it harder to gain acceptance once back in the United States than in combat. Upon return from their tours, female veterans are facing very different issues than men. For example, female soldiers
- Are more likely to be single parents;
- Have higher divorce rates than men;
- Experience higher rates for military sexual trauma (sexual harassment assault, or rape); and
- According to some studies, are more likely to be homeless.
Another big problem female veterans face upon returning to the U.S. is receiving equal treatment with their VA disability claims. Complaints from female veterans run the gamut from “misinterpreted” paperwork to disability payments equaling less than what they should be. One step the VA has taken to correct these issues is placing a female advocate in each VA medical center to work on behalf of every female veteran making a disability claim.
The VA is also reviewing standards in order to make it easier for those in non-infantry roles to qualify for disability benefits stemming from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since all female service members are classified as non-infantry, this would directly affect every woman in the military.
There is also a movement to ensure all combat veterans, male and female, have their combat notated on their discharge paperwork so they can receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
For any returning veteran, any lack of recognition for their service can be disheartening. Therefore, when you meet a veteran, male or female, pat them on the back and just say, “thank you.”