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Mattocks KM, Frayne S, Phibbs CS, Yano EM, Zephyrin L, Shryock H, Haskell S, Katon J, Sullivan JC, Weinreb L, Ulbricht C, Bastian LA. Five-year trends in women veterans' use of VA maternity benefits, 2008-2012. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2014 Jan 1; 24(1):e37-42.
BACKGROUND: An increasing number of young women veterans are returning from war and military service and are seeking reproductive health care from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Many of these women seek maternity benefits from the VHA, and yet little is known regarding the number of women veterans utilizing VHA maternity benefits nor the characteristics of pregnant veterans using these benefits. In May 2010, VHA maternity benefits were expanded to include 7 days of infant care, which may serve to entice more women to use VHA maternity benefits. Understanding the changing trends in women veterans seeking maternity benefits will help the VHA to improve the quality of reproductive care over time. OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to examine the trends in delivery claims among women veterans receiving VHA maternity benefits over a 5-year period and the characteristics of pregnant veterans utilizing VHA benefits. DESIGN: We undertook a retrospective, national cohort study of pregnant veterans enrolled in VHA care with inpatient deliveries between fiscal years (FY) 2008 and 2012. PARTICIPANTS: We included pregnant veterans using VHA maternity benefits for delivery. MAIN MEASURES: Measures included annualized numbers and rates of inpatient deliveries and delivery-related costs, as well as cesarean section rates as a quality indicator. KEY RESULTS: During the 5-year study period, there was a significant increase in the number of deliveries to women veterans using VHA maternity benefits. The overall delivery rate increased by 44% over the study period from 12.4 to 17.8 deliveries per 1,000 women veterans. A majority of women using VHA maternity benefits were age 30 or older and had a service-connected disability. From FY 2008 to 2012, the VHA paid more than $46 million in delivery claims to community providers for deliveries to women veterans ($4,993/veteran). CONCLUSIONS: Over a 5-year period, the volume of women veterans using VHA maternity benefits increased by 44%. Given this sizeable increase, the VHA must increase its capacity to care for pregnant veterans and ensure care coordination systems are in place to address the needs of pregnant veterans with service-connected disabilities.