Women Vets

Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison is leading a group

of female Senators to help women veterans get better

health care. Jodi Breisler has more from Capitol Hill.

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.