As part of Republican Leadership Kay Bailey Hutchison
does not often stand shoulder to shoulder with Washington
Democrat Patty Murray. But the two agree that women
veterans have unique needs when it comes to medical
“Women veterans have some different issues from
men’s veterans whether it is mental health, post
traumatic stress from combat duties or from the sexual
trauma that can be faced.”
Hutchison says that the num! ber of women entering the
VA system is expected to double over the next five years.
“So, looking at their unique issues is a priority
whose time has come.”
Hutchison and Murray both serve on the Senate
Veterans’ Affairs committee.
Female veterans often approach the two of them in
particular. Murray says at meetings men open up publicly
about their experiences at war and subsequent concerns
about treatment at VA hospitals.
“They’d sit at the table with me, they’d stand up
in the audience, they’d tell their stories and inevitably
as I was leaving the room, a woman vet would come up to
me and whisper her experiences in my ear.”
There is support in the House for Hutchison’s Women
Veterans Heath Care Improvement Act of 2008. Democratic
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s district includes the
Michael E. Debakey VA Medical Center. She says while the
VA system has been successful overall! , she’s glad to
see more focus on female veterans.
“A system that has worked for many, many years,
still needs, if you will, adjusting to the new population
of women soldiers- increasing population of women
Jackson Lee says the VA system is unaccustomed to the
many needs that women have.
“As mothers, as single parents, as sexual victims-
if you will- of rape or abuse, of diseases that impact
women in particular- obviously breast cancer that afflict
not only the veterans, but also the soldiers who will
come out and ultimately be veterans.”
The new legislation would focus more VA health
research on these concerns, train psychologists
specifically on military sexual trauma, and have clinics
provide child care services. Hutchison says this
framework will be appreciated by Veterans Affairs
Secretary James Peake.
“He specifically on his own has said we need to do
more to make sure we are serving our women v! eterans.”
But first the legislation has to pass through
Congress. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee is
scheduled to consider the bill in the end of May.
From Capitol News Connection in Washington, I’m Jodi
Breisler, Houston Public Radio News.