Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

Congressional Committee Hears HSR&D Investigator’s Testimony on Women Veterans’ Mental Health and Harassment Research

February 1, 2021


Takeaway: Elizabeth Yano, PhD, MSPH, Director of HSR&D’s Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation, and Policy, was an invited witness for a House Oversight Committee on women Veterans' mental health research. Dr. Yano also was asked to speak to VA's progress on harassment research. The Congressional Task Force on Women Veterans plans on considering the need for legislation to support more work on women Veterans' mental health, resilience/coping, peer support, harassment, intimate partner violence and related areas.

Women Veterans are a rapidly increasing subset of VA’s patient population. From 2005 to 2015, the number of women Veterans using VA healthcare increased by 46%; however, women Veterans remain a minority patient population at about 7.5% of patients. Among other national VA leaders, including Dr. Patty Hayes, Chief Officer, Women’s Health Services, and Dr. Susan McCutcheon, National Mental Health Director, Family Services, Women’s Mental Health, and Military Sexual Trauma, Dr. Elizabeth Yano, Director of HSR&D’s Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy (CSHIIP) in Los Angeles, CA, was an invited witness for a House Oversight Committee on women Veterans' mental health research. Part of the Women Veterans Task Force: Resilience and Coping: Mental Health of Women Veterans virtual forum, she and the other participants provided both written and oral testimony, hallmarking the VA Women's Health Research Network's role in accelerating research in this area. Dr. Yano also was asked to speak to VA's progress on harassment research. The Congressional Task Force on Women Veterans plans on considering the need for legislation to support more work on women Veterans' mental health, resilience/coping, peer support, harassment, intimate partner violence and related areas.

Dr. Yano spoke to the Committee about the work being done in the area of harassment research. Recent research has found that 25% of women Veterans who are routine users of VA primary care clinics report inappropriate or unwanted comments or behaviors by male Veterans on VA grounds. Rates ranged from 10% to 42% across 12 participating urban and rural VA medical centers (VAMCs) in 9 states. In response, many VAMCs are working to develop and implement local innovations in culture change. For example, VAs in Milwaukee and Madison WI, Philadelphia PA, and Birmingham AL have launched women’s ambassador programs, in which women volunteer to walk women Veterans to their appointments. To track efforts to end harassment, the VA Women’s Health Practice-Based Research Network (PBRN)—comprised of 72 VAMCs partnered to increase inclusion of women Veterans in VA research and to accelerate care innovations and improvements—collected surveys from women Veterans seen in VA primary care and/or women’s health clinics. Recent findings showed that of those women Veterans who reported sexual harassment in 2019, the majority still reported feeling safe (87%) and welcome (90%) at the VA.  HSR&D research in this area includes studies on: Addressing Gender-Based Harassment at VA Facilities (PI, Alison Hamilton, PhD), and Bystander Activation Intervention to Address Gender-Based Harassment (PI, Amy Drapalski, PhD).

Moreau J, Dyer K, Hamilton A, Golden R, Combs A, Carney D, Frayne S, Yano E, Ruth Klap, and the VA Women’s Health Practice-Based Research Network. Women Veterans’ Perspectives on how to make Veterans Affairs Healthcare settings more welcoming to women. Women’s Health Issues. July-August 2020;30(4):299-305.


Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team.

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.