Currently, armed veterans make up 21.3 million of the population in the United States, but just 10% of them are female. However, women are the fastest growing cohort within the veteran community. The male veteran population is expected to decrease to 16.7 million as the female veteran population continues to steadily increase by 2020 and beyond.
Being the current minority, many issues relating to female veterans are especially overlooked compared to their male counterparts. The Department of Veteran Affairs still struggles to meet unique, gender-specific means for women veterans including mental health care and sexual trauma counseling.
However, in recent years there has been new funding and progressive initiatives to offer assistance to female veterans. Ranging from entrepreneurship, health, and the arts, there are several worthwhile organizations that seek to help female veterans succeed.
Five incredible female veteran initiatives include:
- The Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP)
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans holds an initiative to help specifically curb the effects of homelessness among female veterans. Currently, it’s estimated that 13–15% of women veterans who live in poverty experience homelessness over the course of a year. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that women veterans face unique challenges that increase their susceptibility to homelessness. HVRP’s goal is to connect homeless veterans to employment opportunities in their local communities. It also provides over $4 million in grants to support female vets through the Homeless Female Veterans and Veterans with Families Program. Another feature of the program provides case management and Section 8 vouchers through the public housing authority to help veterans find permanent housing to combat homelessness. This feature often prioritizes many female veterans who are disabled with dependent children.
Female veterans are having a moment in entrepreneurship right now and V-WISE is a fine example of aiding their progress. The program trains women vets, active duty females, and female partners/spouses of active duty and vets in entrepreneurship and small business management. Three phases of the program help these women learn the business smarts needed to make and grow start-up ventures. The first phase includes a 15-day online course. Phase two introduces a 3-day entrepreneurship training events while the last phase offers ongoing mentorship, training, and support as participants launch their growing businesses. Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the support of nationwide corporate and foundation partners helps to fund V-WISE.
Women Veterans Rock is an all encompassing kind of organization. A coalition of Women Veteran Organizations and Women Advocacy Organizations, they support female veterans and military families. Programs range from housing, employment, education, financial stability, and health and wellness. Some of their most popular programs include an annual summer leadership retreat, the Women Veterans Civic Leadership Institute, and their signature event, Women Veterans Day On-Campus which seeks to empower women and girls from military families on college campuses.
After reeling from the Marines United photo scandal, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America launched a new campaign last month to promote awareness, take action, and work with congress people for a more gender-inclusive VA department. The initiative will help focus on female vets who don’t get proper care and local support. Thus far, the campaign has charged ahead with new legislation “The Deborah Sampson Act” to focus on changing antiquated culture within the VA. The bill focuses on women veteran peer support, gender-based data and transparency, along with community outreach to female vets. The legislation also highlights coordinated community care. The IAVA Policy Agenda is a roadmap for the VA to fully promote and empower female post-9/11 vets.
Founded in 2007, SWAN is helping to transform the outcome of many issues that active servicewomen and female vets face. The community network is run by members who advocate for individual and collective needs–opportunities, protections, benefits, and respect–they deserve. The goal is to help these women have access to research, information, tools, and a network of support they need during and after their service. Tus far, they also offer programs on financial stability, policy education, and health and wellness courses focusing on VA health benefits, disability, and reproductive health. SWAN has played an effective role in the outcome of high-ranking issues including improving access to disability claims, holding sex offenders accountable in the military justice systems, and widening the accessibility to healthcare services.
As the number of female vets increases, we will see a growing and more productive atmosphere surrounding the issues women vets face on a daily basis. In the meantime, think about researching and supporting these wide-ranging initiatives to help support those who serve us.