A new study says female military members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions than their male counterparts.
The Inspector General's report was released Monday by the Veterans' Administration's Office and Senator Mark Warner.
Sen. Warner spoke about the report that reviewed the continued challenges female veterans face in seeking treatment for combat-related stress at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.
“It became evident to me that this challenge was growing exponentially—in this conflict, perhaps higher than any other in the past—and that there was a particular concern in the changing nature in the conflict particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, in terms of our women veterans,” said Sen. Warner.
The report found that female veterans continue to be denied services and treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at a higher rate than men because women, by definition, do no serve in combat roles.
But Senator Warner is helping to change that. As a result of Warner's efforts, the VA recently changed its policies to remove initial barriers for women to apply for treatment. This means military personnel—both men and women—do not have to have served in direct combat to receive PTSD benefits.
Warner said the battle against the issues surrounding PTSD is on-going.
“I remember members of the National Guard coming back saying they had challenges but were afraid to report the challenges because it might appear on their employment records,” said Warner. “I think we've kind of lifted some of that veil over the very real challenges about PTSD. That was one step forward. Now we're trying to take on this next step of making sure that our female veterans get the credit, the benefits, and the respect they deserve.”
Senator Warner is also requesting the VA go back and review claims from those female veterans previously denied PTSD benefits.
In June 2009, the VA reported almost 20,000 female military veterans from both Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts had been diagnosed with some form of mental disorder, including nearly 8,500 women diagnosed specifically with PTSD.