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VA launches new hotline for women veterans

Apr. 29, 2013 - 04:01PM   |  
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As part of an ongoing campaign to appeal to female veterans, the Veterans Affairs Department last week established a hotline exclusively for women to answer questions about services like health care, education benefits and claims.

The call center — at 1-855-VA-WOMEN, or 1-855-829-6636 — is staffed with VA employees to provide information on VA resources and referrals to homeless veterans services, mental health care and Vet Centers, according to VA.

“Some women veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said April 23. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”

VA has battled ongoing communications and image problems with female veterans, who often don’t pursue VA benefits because they perceive the department as male-centric.

Since 2011, VA has launched several initiatives to educate women on improvements made at VA to serve them, such as broadening women’s health services at medical centers, adding emergency services to fit their needs and launching an education campaign to change VA employees’ perceptions of female veterans.

Its Women Veterans Call Center initially was launched in June 2011 to contact each of the nation’s 1.8 million female veterans to inform them about available services and benefits.

After the call center was established, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., pushed VA to widen its mission to include receiving incoming calls. On April 23, she issued a statement praising the change.

“This is a critical resource in order to make sure women veterans can get the information they need in order to access the VA health care and benefits they have earned,” Murray said.

The number of women using VA benefits has doubled in the past 12 years, from 160,000 in 2000 to 354,000 in 2012, and VA officials believe the figure “will keep climbing.”

“Many women who served don’t self-identify as veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits. We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women,” said VA Center for Women Veterans Director Irene Trowell-Harris.

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