Last Sunday, a letter from a Warren writer, “Women veterans deserve better treatment from peers,” chastised the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars for not doing more to support women veterans. As the former national commander of AMVETS, another leading veterans service organization, I am proud to report that a major concerted effort is underway to address the needs of our women veterans.
AMVETS National Service Officers provide free counseling to veterans, men and women of all conflicts and eras, to help them file their claims and appeals to the VA for their earned benefits. In 2008, AMVETS NSOs filed more than 65,000 claims and recovered more than $410 million for our heroes and their families. Current VA data shows than more than 20 percent of the 112,000 women veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many of these cases are a result of sexual trauma experienced while in the military service. Accordingly, AMVETS NSOs are trained to address the specific needs of this population, and 17 percent of AMVETS NSOs are themselves women.
As coauthors of The Independent Budget, a roadmap to guide Congress in providing sufficient, timely and predictable funding for Veterans Affairs, AMVETS has long advocated for improved resources to meet the needs of our women veterans. Additionally, AMVETS legislative staff is diligently at work on Capitol Hill advocating for legislation to benefit all veterans, women included. VA statistics show that the number of women veterans will increase by nearly 20 percent between 2008 and 2033 and AMVETS will continue to fight to ensure VA has the capabilities and specialized programs in place to treat the complex physical and mental health issues unique to our women veterans’ population.
In August 2010, AMVETS will hold the AMVETS Symposium for 21st Century Veterans during its annual national convention in Louisville, Ky. This event will address the most pressing concerns of our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in the areas of transition assistance, health care, education, homelessness and more. We will have a number of sessions that specifically address the needs of our women veterans.
By proactively seeking ways to serve our women veterans through all the above means, AMVETS has successfully attracted a significant number of women into its ranks. In the past decade, AMVETS has doubled the overall proportion of women in its membership and, as a result, has many women leaders at the post, department and national levels. I encourage your readers to learn more about AMVETS and its many programs by visiting www.amvets.org.vindy.com