Women in the Military, Female Veterans and Military Families
The Women's Legislative Network of NCSL is committed to providing state legislators with relevant and accurate information about women serving in the military, female veterans, and the unique circumstances of military families. Browse content from past meetings below, and explore the links to NCSL resources, informative reports, media stories, and other websites.
We welcome your feedback about this page and about topics the Network should consider for future programming. Contact Katie Ziegler at (303) 364-7700.
States Save Millions Helping Veterans Get Federal Aid. Governing, January 24, 2013
The Hawaii Women's Legislative Caucus dedicates its 2012 legislative package to women veterans and disabled female veterans. More.
Hawaii Caucus Package.
States try to help veterans find jobs. Stateline.org, 2/7/2012
March is Texas Women Veterans Month: Women Veterans' Summit.
Are States, Cities Ready for a Wave of Veterans? Governing, 6/12/2012
Center for Women Veterans - United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Veterans' Employment and Training Services - United States Department of Labor
Homeless Women Veterans Listening Sessions Report - United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau
The Women’s Bureau, in order to develop projects and initiatives in direct response to the needs of its constituents, often utilizes community-based methods such as listening sessions to gather first-hand information. The Homeless Women Veterans Listening Sessions Report summarizes the information and viewpoints gathered from homeless women veterans and the service providers that assist them.
Military and Military Families - United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration
Supporting America’s service men and women—Active Duty, National Guard, Reserve, and Veteran—together with their families and communities by leading efforts to ensure that needed behavioral health services are accessible and that outcomes are positive.
Military HOMEFRONT - United States Department of Defense
MilitaryHOMEFRONT is the Department of Defense website for official Military Community and Family Policy (MC&FP) program information, policy and guidance designed to help troops and their families, leaders, and service providers. Whether you live the military lifestyle or support those who do, you'll find what you need.
Resources for Military Families - United States Department of Health and Human Services
Military Spouse Employment Partnership
Grace After Fire
Grace After Fire provides support for and helps women veterans of the United States military who are returning from active duty so that they can re-engage as mothers, wives and daughters in civilian life.
Joining Forces is a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned.
National Military Family Association
"The National Military Family Association is an organization with strong grassroots support balanced with professionalism that makes us a leader in the field. Not only do we support military families – we are military families. Spouses, parents, and family members make up our staff and board positions. We speak up on behalf of military families and empower husbands, wives, and children to understand and access their benefits. Based on what we hear from our members, we meet the needs of service members and their families with insightful recommendations, innovative programs, and grassroots efforts to better the quality of life for military families."
Sessions at NCSL Meetings
NCSL Legislative Summit 2012
August 6-9, 2012
Women's Legislative Network Lunch and Business Meeting: Women in the Military
Following the business meeting was a panel presentation about women in the military and female veterans from Illinois experts.
Erica Borggren identified three issues unique to female veterans:
They often don’t self-identify as veterans. (They may self-ID as “having served in uniform” but feel the word “veteran” doesn’t fit them). Providers don’t see women at VA events at the same rates as men. She recommends that providers and legislators consider the “imaging” when advertising events for veterans. Be sure the environment is welcoming to women.
Military sexual trauma – women experience this at much higher rates than men. It is now recognized as a valid cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), just as valid as having been in combat.
Many female veterans are caregivers. They may not be able to access veterans’ services because of child care issues. Female veterans who become homeless have a need for family shelters.
The Illinois Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs started their women veterans program with a survey to discover the population’s needs. They are hosting a conference in the fall about military sexual trauma.
Director Borggren offered several ideas for the audience. Consider whether VA centers in your state have women-specific veterans’ service officers. Consider creating a women-only honor guard. Take care to consider the “imaging” when advertising events for veterans in your community. Also consider offering child care at all veterans events.
Valerie Creedon noted that since the year 2000, the number of female veterans has doubled. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population. Twenty percent of newly-enlisting servicemembers are women. Only a small percentage of female veterans are accessing services, however. She noted that the VA is making an effort to increase the number of women veteran-specific service providers at medical centers around the country.
Dr. Kinna Patel noted that many VA medical sites don’t offer maternity care themselves, but they have agreements negotiated with community providers. She agreed that a big problem is that women are not accessing services available to them. Common reasons that female veterans access medical care include chronic pain, osteoporosis, maternity care, menopause, and sexual trauma. Providers are seeing more women accessing care for infertility treatments.
Jenny Garretson said that many VA centers have peer counseling and support groups. Some locations have women-specific breakout sessions, but this doesn’t exist everywhere yet. Some sites also have women-only addiction and substance abuse support groups. She noted that providers recognize the importance of screening women to learn whether they experienced military sexual trauma, as women often don’t want to disclose this right away.
Gaps that still exist in services for female veterans include assistance with transitioning to civilian life, counseling to support personal relationships, and employment assistance.
The panelists noted that there are many, many service providers and navigating the systems could be overwhelming for some people. They suggested that providers work together to be more coherent and collaborative. The state has launched Illinois Joining Forces, a website that will include referrals to all services available to veterans in one place.
l-r Jenny Garretson, Kinna Patel, Valerie Creedon, Erica Borggren
NCSL Fall Forum 2011
November 30-December 2
Employment Support for Military Families
NCSL Labor and Economic Development Committee, Women's Legislative Network
When members of the military receive orders to transfer from one state to another, they often have spouses and children who make the move with them. Many military families depend on the non-enlisted spouse’s income, and cross-country moves can be disruptive. This session highlighted state actions to support military spousal employment and Department of Defense resources for military families.
Moderator: Representative Brent Yonts, Kentucky
Panelists: Representative Gayle B. Harrell, Florida
Ed Kringer, State Liaison & Educational Opportunity, U.S. Department of Defense, Virginia. PowerPoint presentation. (11-pages PDF file)
Katie Savant, National Military Family Association, Virginia. PowerPoint presentation. (14-pages PDF file)
National Military Family Association
National Military Family Association Community Toolkit
NCSL information about unemployment compensation for military spouses.
NCSL Legislative Summit 2011
San Antonio, Texas
Network Luncheon: Women in the Military
Attendees heard keynote presentations about the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center and Grace After Fire, an organization that supports female veterans.
Presiding: Representative Rosie Berger, Wyoming
Rebecca Hooper, Center For the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas. The threefold mission of the Center is to provide rehabilitation for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom casualties who have sustained amputation, burns, or functional limb loss; to provide education to Department of Defense and Department of Veterans’ Affairs professionals on cutting edge rehabilitation modalities; and to promote research in the fields of Orthopedics, prosthetics and physical and occupational rehabilitation. Col. Hooper discussed the amazing technology the Center uses as part of its rehabilitation program for wounded warriors, and shared stories of some of the women who have benefitted from the Center's programs and gone on to achieve and exceed their goals.
Kimberly Olson, executive director, Grace After Fire. This Texas-based non-profit organization is dedicated to providing outreach to all women veterans and their families, offering confidential peer support and increased access to appropriate trauma, mental health, addiction, and community services. Col. Olson discussed some of the unique challenges female veterans face and why it is so important for women to have access to a peer support network.
Link to video shown as part of Kim Olson's presentation.
Preparing for Bringing Home the Troops
NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans' Affairs
With the end of combat in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom, America's troops will continue to return home to installations, bases and communities that will feel the stress of growth and expansion. This session explored how various levels of government are preparing to meet the needs of returning members of the military, particularly those with physical and mental injuries.
Speakers: John Garcia, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.
Lt. General Jack Stultz, Army Reserve, Washington, D.C.
Video recording of the session.
NCSL Spring Forum 2011
Briefings and Tour of the Pentagon
Women's Legislative Network and the NCSL Military and Veterans' Affairs Task Force
State legislators received a tour of the Pentagon and met with Robert Gordon III, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy. Mr. Gordon shared information about new and ongoing initiatives within the DOD, including a review of military children's educational status, the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program, military family life counselors, and the new White House Joining Forces program. Legislators also discussed initiatives in their states with Ed Kringer, the director of the State Liaison and Educational Opportunity offices.