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Videos feature military service stories of women veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs has released a series of videos in which women veterans describe their experiences serving in the military, ranging from their significant contributions to national safety and security to the challenges they faced during their service and after returning to civilian life. 

“These videos show the important contributions women have made to this country through their military service,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Women veterans have earned the respect of a grateful nation for their tremendous service and sacrifice.”

The three- to five-minute videos are part of VA’s ongoing “Rethink Veterans” campaign to increase awareness of women veterans and their vital roles in our nation’s history.  The videos can be viewed at www.womenshealth.va.gov or on www.youtube.com/user/VeteransHealthAdmin. 

The four stories just released were recorded during the July 2011 Women Veterans Summit in Washington, D.C.  Women from all eras, conflicts and service branches were invited to share their experiences.  VA plans to release several video vignettes over the next few months. 

The first four videos include an Army Reservist who served nine years stateside before deploying to Iraq post-9/11, a Vietnam War era nurse who returned from combat with a new sense of family, a Navy veteran who advocates for expanded roles for women in the military, and Brigadier Gen. Wilma Vaught, the first woman to deploy with a Strategic Air Command bomber unit.  The videos are meant to increase awareness of women’s roles in the military among VA staff and the public.

“We’re challenging people to rethink preconceived notions about who is a veteran, what a veteran looks like, and what a woman veteran may have done or experienced while serving,” said Dr. Patricia Hayes, chief consultant of VA’s Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group. “Getting this message across, both inside and outside VA, is important so that women veterans receive the respect, recognition, and care they deserve.”

Women veterans make up 8 percent of veterans, 15 percent of active duty service members and nearly 18 percent of guard and reserve forces.  As the number of active duty women increases, so does the number of women veterans using their VA benefits.  VA is working to enhance access and services for women veterans at all VA facilities and change VA culture to be more understanding and accommodating of women veterans.

In addition to the videos, VA recently released a 60-second public service announcement (PSA) about women in the military.  The PSA is available for viewing on www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=BOP5DCgjxPE and  www.womenshealth.va.gov.

For more information about VA programs and services for women veterans, please visit www.va.gov/womenvet and www.womenshealth.va.gov.

Online tools

Veterans now have on-demand access and can download official data about their military training and experience, which can be used to help them find jobs and continue their careers.  Their service data can be uploaded to job search and networking sites to help identify employment opportunities.  

“Savvy employers look to veterans for the excellent training and unique experiences they bring to the civilian workforce,” said Shinseki. “Now, veterans can have state-of-the-art access to official data about their military service that we will help them land meaningful jobs.”

Starting Dec. 3, veterans can use the VA’s online My HealtheVet portal (www.myhealth.va.gov) to see official information about their military service, including deployment data, in-uniform experience, and Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) codes which define the type of work performed and skills learned during their tour of duty.  Veterans can electronically download that information to their personal computers by using an enhanced version of the Blue Button.  This new capability is the latest addition to a growing suite of job-hunting tools announced by President Obama on Nov. 14.  

“The President and Secretary Shinseki have shown real leadership on Veterans Employment,” said Dr. Peter L. Levin, chief technology officer at Veterans Affairs.  “The White House has been instrumental in guiding this public/private initiative to meet the needs of veterans, and with promoting web-based services that help veterans find jobs.  With their MOS codes, veterans can more easily substantiate that they possess the skills needed by employers.”

Several industry partners have signed up to create — or have even already implemented — third-party applications that can read military specialties or classification codes in Blue Button format, automatically translate those codes into civilian descriptions, and identify openings and other resources for veterans, Levin added.

Military job information available to veterans under this program will depend on discharge or retirement date.                      

All veterans discharged after 1980 will see military specialty or classification codes.

Some veterans discharged between 1975-1980 will see military specialty or classification codes.

Some Gulf War veterans may see combat pay and deployment periods.

All Post-9/11 veterans will see combat pay and deployment periods.

Veterans enrolled in VA health care can access their military service information through My HealtheVet.  Veterans who have not yet signed up for My HealtheVet access can register for a My HealtheVet account at any VA medical center by completing a onetime identity verification process to help assure their data privacy. 

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave. in the old Mercy Medical Center.

Meetings

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

American Legion Post 108, second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

Veterans for Veterans, every Tuesday at 10 am, 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans, Monday at 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd.

Further information

For information on these and other veterans’ benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard. The office number is 264-4013, the fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590 and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for application for VA programs and for filing in the VSO office.

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