Over 155 women veterans from around the state gathered Saturday, Oct. 30, for Arkansas's First Annual Women Veterans Summit at Pulaski Technical College Campus Center in North Little Rock.
"We learned a lot about veteran benefits and other services that are available to us through the Veterans Administration," George said. "They are trying to get the word out to women veterans who go home from service and go into their roles as wives and mothers. Many of them don't know there are services of all kinds available to them. I found the summit very informative."
After they were greeted by VA employees at the door for sign-in and received their gift bag with information and goodies, they stopped by some the 35 vender booths where they were able to pick up valuable information and giveaways from providers in such areas as VA healthcare, VA benefits, colleges, business opportunities, employment, Social Security, and several veterans' organizations. The free flu shots provided by the VA were very popular.
Keynote speaker Betty Moseley Brown, Ed. D, associate director, VA Center for Women Veterans and former Marine, motivated the morning crowd. After a few minutes of challenges among the women veterans as to which branch of service was the best, Dr. Moseley Brown jumped right into her story in the Marine Corps from signing up as a Marine in 1979, despite her mother having served in the Army, to her first assignment in Hawaii and then serving as a recruiter in Baltimore.
She made the audience aware of what the VA now provides for women veterans while admitting they still have a ways to go. "Last year alone, the VA experienced a 20 percent jump in the number of women using VA healthcare, compared to a 17 percent increase over the previous six years combined." Additionally, she said, "Twenty percent of new military recruits are women." This increases the need for more women's outreach and education in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). The VA is focused on providing more individualized care for women veterans taking into consideration their struggle as single moms and being deployed to having therapy groups at vet centers that are women only.
The VA echoed her comments and stressed the benefits that women veterans may not know about - for instance, special monthly compensation for women veterans who suffered a loss of breast tissue related to military service and loss of a reproductive organ or its use. Disability compensation, pension, vocational rehabilitation, federal employment preference, and home loan guaranties are available for all veterans. In particular though, women veterans' health and personal experiences in the military set them apart from the rest of the veteran population.
"Yes, women are veterans too," Brown said.