Joining Forces for Women Veterans

Joining Forces for Women Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 150,000 women will be transitioning out of the military over the next few years. However, too many of them fail to take advantage of the benefits and services for which they are eligible, according to a report released today by the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation.

The report, “Joining Forces for Women Veterans” summarizes the findings of a day-long summit involving 80 leaders from the White House, federal agencies, veterans community, and the business and nonprofit sectors. Convened by BPW Foundation in Washington last fall, this group discussed the challenges facing women veterans and plotted a course for action. The event was made possible through the partnership of the McCormick Foundation and Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, and support by businesses and organizations.

The report builds upon the first-ever survey of women veterans, conducted four years ago by the BPW Foundation. After surveying 1,600 women vets in 2007, the group found that many programs and policies designed for veterans were set up to meet the needs of male veterans from a different era.

Key report findings include:

1) There is an economic and moral imperative for addressing the needs of women veterans. Women represent 15% of the military and are the fastest-growing population segment. The wealth of training and experience they bring to the civilian workplace as employees and employers is squandered when their unique transition needs are ignored.

2) Women veterans lack awareness of or access to benefits, services, programs that address their distinct needs for a number of reasons. Among them, many veterans’ services and programs were designed with men in mind, and many women veterans do not self-identify as veterans.

3) Efforts to address women veterans’ transition challenges must include a dual focus: support for women veterans and capacity-building for organizations. Business, government and community leaders lack knowledge about the women veterans employed in their organizations and living in their communities.

4) Actions and solutions that address women veterans’ transition challenges should be informed, holistic, collaborative, and community-based. Supporting women veterans’ employment transition, for example, requires companies, training organizations, and support systems for solutions. Public and private agencies should share the risks and rewards of supporting women veterans.