2012 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract
1085 — Changing Characteristics of Women Veterans – Implications for VA Women’s Health Programs and Services
Washington DL, Bean-Mayberry B, and Yano EM, VA Greater Los Angeles HSR&D Center of Excellence;
The National Survey of Women Veterans (NSWV) was conducted on behalf of the Women Veterans Health Strategic Healthcare Group to support evidence-based strategic planning for programs and services for women Veterans. NSWV objectives included contrasting characteristics of women Veterans by period of military service to better address programmatic needs and operational strategies.
In 2008-09, we conducted a national, population-based telephone survey of women Veterans, oversampling VA users and OEF/OIF Veterans. Survey items included measures of demographic and military service characteristics, health, and healthcare use. All data were weighted to represent population estimates for U.S. women Veterans.
Eighty-seven percent of women Veterans who served after September 2001 are under age 45, versus 41% of women Veterans overall. Forty percent of OEF/OIF women Veterans are racial/ethnic minorities, versus 8% of pre-Vietnam era women Veterans. Among OEF/OIF women Veterans, 71% experienced combat exposure versus 14% of those from other military eras. Women Veterans who served during or after the Vietnam era, including during OEF/OIF, were more likely to experience sexual harassment than pre-Vietnam era women Veterans (47-50% vs. 22%). OEF/OIF women Veterans were more likely than other groups to screen positive for an anxiety disorder (19% vs. 12%) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; 25% vs. 12%). VA healthcare was indicated as the usual source of care for 19% of OEF/OIF, 12% of pre-Vietnam era women Veterans, and 11% of other groups. Military era differences are also present in the types of healthcare services used, with women Veterans who served during or after the Vietnam era, including during OEF/OIF more likely to use women’s health and mental health care. OEF/OIF women Veterans were more knowledgeable than other groups about VA availability of gynecologic and mental health services. All reported comparisons had p <0.01.
Military experiences and effects, and healthcare use, vary significantly by period of service.
Population demographics highlight the need for VA services that are gender, age, and culturally appropriate. Higher rates of PTSD and anxiety disorders among OEF/OIF women Veterans reinforce the need for co-located comprehensive primary and mental health care for women.