Exploring the Physical and Mental Health Needs of Women and Children in the Military

Great information was provided at the veterans event held—appropriately so—at the World War I Liberty Memorial September 9th. Speakers addressed:
special needs of returning women veterans and issues of military children.

Women now make up approximately 20% of our Armed Forces—14% of the active duty army. Because of the nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, female soldiers are no longer isolated from combat. Women in the military are driving supply trucks, providing medical care, and in charge of provisions and materials.

These jobs put women on the front line and in combat situations time after time. Women are returning from missions with traumatic brain injuries, amputations, and emotional issues such as post-traumatic stress disorders just as their male counterparts, but with specific needs of their own.

Between 6,500 and 7,000 female war veterans in the US are homeless. Double the number of a decade ago. Almost 20% of female veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD. About 1 in 5 women seen in VA hospitals respond “yes” when screened for military sexual trauma.

Sherril Sego, DNP, FFANP, Women Veterans Program Manager at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, and a U.S. Air Force veteran, spoke on the medical and behavioral health needs of female veterans, and how the KC VA Medical Center is equipped to handle these needs. Emphasis is placed on preventive care for women’s health issues and gender specific medical treatment.

A clinic for women only has been established with separate waiting areas and care by female providers when possible. Sego spoke about the all important document for veterans—the DD-214. Military personnel know what this document is and how valuable is in regard to accessing services at V.A. Medical Centers or Vet Centers.

Lieutenant Colonel Keith Lemmon, M.D. who served as Army Squadron Surgeon during deployment in Iraq has developed materials to address issues faced by children of veterans. Many children suffer from depression, anxiety and other issues as a result of their parent(s) being deployed.

A video series produced through funding from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Military Youth Coping with Separation: When Family Members Deploy” has been used on bases and in other settings throughout the nation. The video uses teens to address other teens—powerful stuff. The video is at http://www.aap.org/sections/uniformedservices/deployment/index.html .

Heidi Kraft, Ph.D., a Navy veteran and current consultant for their Combat/Operational Stress Control Program, delivered a passionate plea for understanding how a woman serving in a war zone feels and relates to her situation. Feelings of fear of death are similar to those of her male counterparts, but fear of possible sexual harassment or, for mothers who are serving their county, feelings of shame at having left children at home, are more specific to women. Kraft works with active duty combat trauma patients to help them heal from emotional scars.

The information from the four-hour forum was current, useful and touched with a poignancy that gave it sticking power.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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