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VA Fails to Properly Treat Female Veterans

Update Date: Jun 23, 2014 03:47 PM EDT

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs is falling short in providing adequate care for female veterans. Despite putting more than $1.3 billion into training medical professionals since 2008, the head of the VA's office of women's health, Dr. Patricia Hayes admitted that the department has to improve care for female veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

''Are there problems? Yes,'' said Dr. Hayes, the VA's chief consultant for women's health in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) reported by Boston. ''The good news for our health care system is that as the number of women increases dramatically, we are going to continue to be able to adjust to these circumstances quickly.''

According to the AP's review of VA's office of women's health, nearly 25 percent of all VA hospitals throughout the country do not have a fulltime gynecologist. Roughly 140 out of the 920 community-based veteran clinics located in rural areas do not have a designated women's health provider. Without access to a medical professional trained in women's health, female veterans are missing out on these "comprehensive medical benefits packages" offered by the VA.

The review also found that female veterans are more likely than male veterans to be placed on the VA's Electronic Wait List. Female veterans were also more likely to be referred to a facility that is outside of the VA system for specialty care. Due to the increase in referrals, female veterans were forced to drive more hours in order to receive care.

The AP's review suggests that the VA has to update its policies and programs in order to better care for more female veterans. Not only does the VA need to improve female veterans' access to healthcare, the VA also needs to add more effectively train women healthcare physicians to these clinics. The review found female veterans were more likely to be prescribed medications that have been linked to birth defects in comparison to women who receive care from a private health maintenance organization (HMO).

The VA reportedly has plans on placing a trained women's provider in every VA center. The VA hopes that women can go to one provider for a wide range of medical care, such as physicals, mental health care, mammograms and gynecological care. However, until these changes are made, female veterans are lacking the type of medical care that they need.

Dr. Hayes stressed, ''we want to make it right for our veterans to have the best kind of care, and women are included in that goal."

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