Hoping to enhance the aid provided to women veterans, the Department of Labor released a guide Wednesday for groups that service former female soldiers who become homeless.
The guide, “The Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers,” was introduced at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Theater at Arlington National Cemetery.
“As the number of women veterans increases, we need to provide better, more tailored tools to support them as they transition back into civilian life,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said. “This guide acknowledges the experiences and challenges facing women veterans, and will result in better assistance and better outcomes for these deserving women.”
The female veteran population is estimated to grow from 1.8 million in 2010 to 2.1 million by 2036, according to the guide, referencing the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
The guide notes that women vets are up to four times as likely as their male counterparts to be: younger, self-identify as a racial minority; have lower incomes, and be unemployed.
While acknowledging steps the VA has taken to address the specific needs of a growing female military population, the guide also notes that women veterans, for example, are less likely than male counterparts to choose the VA as a health care provider.
It goes on to note that while the VA has taken steps to improve its response to homelessness among veterans, homelessness among women veterans is expected to rise.
“Many of these programs have the capacity to serve women, including women with children. However, this subsection of the female veteran population is expected to increase and additional special services will be needed,” it said.
The guide, from the labor’s Women’s Bureau, was produced after a “listening tour” of women veterans and their service providers, the department said.
A key challenge in aiding women veterans, the guide said, is that many women simply don’t think of themselves as veterans.
“I thought veteran meant you had been in combat. If in church, on Veteran’s Day, I don’t want to stand up. I don’t want to raise my hand. It just doesn’t seem right to me,” according to one woman quoted in the guide.
Said another, “I never thought of myself as a veteran even though I served. I didn’t think those words applied to me.”
The department’s Women’s Bureau Director Sara Manzano-Díaz, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught (retired), Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.) and Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) joined the secretary Wednesday.
“The compelling stories we gathered during our listening sessions remind us that we must do more to assist them in reintegrating within their families, jobs and communities,” Sara Manzano-Díaz said.
(The guide is available online at www.dol.gov/wb.)