WASHINGTON — Hill is one of five military installations partnering with the Department of Veteran Affairs to implement the first Women’s Health Transition Pilot Program.
The pilot program is an in-person course designed to provide a female perspective to active-duty, Reserve and Guard servicewomen who plan to transition to civilian or Reserve/Guard status.
The training will provide servicewomen with a deeper understanding of the women’s health services available to them within the VA health care system.
The course will cover:
• The transformed culture of VA for both male and female patients
• Range of women’s health and mental health care services and available benefits
• Eligibility for and enrollment in VA health care
• Expectations for women to proactively seek health care services post-separation
• Logistical details such as facility structure, locations, and points of contact
• Available transition support services
The course will be interactive, with opportunities to personalize training content, and will be led by a female veteran. The first half of the training session will be in the A&FRC classroom; the second half will be a trip to the local VA medical center.
According to the VA, women are the fastest growing subgroup of U.S. veterans. They face greater health-related challenges after military service compared to their male counterparts, including: chronic pain, obesity, musculoskeletal issues, depression and suicide. Since 2001, age-adjusted rates of suicide among women veterans have increased by 85.2 percent, versus 30.5 percent among men.
“The biggest obstacle that the VA faces is simply awareness on what they provide to female veterans,” said Maj. Alea Nadeem, Headquarters Air Force deputy mission manager and member of the Women Initiatives Team. “That statistic, it was heartbreaking to learn, and it really drove me to help in developing this program that could potentially save lives.”
Data collected uncovered that fewer women veterans seek services and support from the VA. Women veterans that do seek Veterans Health Administration care do not connect with VHA until an average of 2.7 years post military service or until mental or physical health issues have manifested.
“These trends underscore the need to recruit servicewomen into VHA health care and support services immediately after military separation,” said Nadeem.
Developed in late 2017, the VA Women’s Health Transition Pilot Program curriculum started with two initial pilot sessions in February 2018, and then officially began it’s nearly 9-month pilot period after the first courses were provided at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia, in July 2018.
“By providing relevant VHA health enrollment information, and describing the extent and depth of services offered at VHA, related to women’s health, women veterans will learn how to access the health care services that they need and want at the VA in a timely manner,” said Nadeem.
The courses are currently being provided in five different locations.
Other installations participating in the pilot program are Joint Base Andrews, Md., MacDill AFB, Fla., Scott AFB, Ill., and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
The Hill A&FRC will host its first workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 14. Additional courses will be added in the coming months. Call the A&FRC at 801-777-4681 for more information and to register.
(75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs contributed to this article.)