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Research roundtable caps VA celebration of Women’s History Month

Improving the health and health care of women veterans is a high priority within the Department of Veterans Affairs, said a panel of leading researchers on March 27. 

“VA is committed to serving women veterans and it is our privilege to do so,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  “We are honored to sponsor research that supports the outstanding care our women veterans have earned and deserve.” 

VA’s research commitment is multidisciplinary, covering the areas of biomedical, clinical, health services and rehabilitation.  To meet the needs of a growing, diverse demographic that spans all generations of women veterans — from an aging population of WWII veterans to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan — the pace of research activity in recent years has greatly accelerated. 

“From building an extensive research network that supports top notch investigators to providing a strong foundation of knowledge for quality care, VA is addressing the diverse health care needs of this fastest growing segment of the veteran population,” said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, VA chief research and development officer, who was the opening speaker.

Between 2004 and 2008, more research on the health of women veterans was published than in the previous 25 years combined.  Today, VA supports a significant amount of research on a wide variety of health issues faced by women.  In fiscal year 2011, the agency funded 60 studies for a total investment of more than $12 million. 

VA women veteran’s health research focuses on:

• Returning combat women veterans — gender differences with regard to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),  post-deployment behaviors,and reintegration;

• Understanding barriers and improving access to VA health care for women veterans;

• Long-term health outcomes of women who served during the Vietnam era;

• Expanding mental health research, including PTSD, substance abuse, and sexual trauma; and

• Basic research (biomedical) on breast cancer including hormones, regulation, genetic factors, as well as autoimmune diseases.

To bolster support for investigators conducting women’s health services research, as well as recruitment and inclusion of women veterans in a wider array of studies, VA Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) launched the Women’s Health Research Network (WHRN).  

The WHRN includes two partnered components:  the Women’s Health Research Consortium, providing training and mentorship to researchers focusing on women’s health research, and the Women’s Health Practice-based Research Network supporting clinical research networks that test VA-based women’s health-related interventions and studies requiring recruitment of women veterans at multiple sites. The former is headed by Elizabeth Yano, Ph.D., M.S.P.H.; the latter by Dr. Susan Frayne, M.P.H.

“Excellence in health care begins with excellence in research” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, VA’s under secretary for health. “VA research has put together a solid infrastructure that supports quality health care for women Veterans.”

Joining Kupersmith to discuss the ways VA research improves the health of women veterans were Dr. Sally Haskell, acting director of Comprehensive Women’s Health for the Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group, and three leading researchers:  Elizabeth Yano, co-director of the VA Health Services Research and Development Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System; Susan Frayne, associate director for development and staff physician at the Women’s Health Center of Excellence, VA Palo Alto Healthcare System;  and Dr. Donna Washington, M.P.H., program area lead, Women’s Health and Equity Strategic Program, HSR&D Center of Excellence for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior and staff physician at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

The media roundtable culminated a month of activities sponsored by VA to recognize Women’s History Month.  It was the third in a series of media roundtables sponsored by VA’s Office of Research and Development.  For more information about other roundtables, see  For more information on VA Research, visit

Please Note: VA benefits are numerous, including VA Health Care. Every veteran has a unique and individual set of circumstances. Until you stop by the office or get in touch, what you qualify for in VA benefits is not known, and we need to check and verify your eligibility. Stop by or call, so I can at least look for what you may be eligible for.

Travel costs

Certain veterans may be provided special mode travel (e.g. wheelchair van, ambulance) or reimbursed for travel costs when traveling for approved VA medical care.

Reimbursement is paid at 41.5 cents per mile and is subject to a deductible of $3 for each one-way trip and $6 for a round trip; with a maximum deductible of $18 or the amount after six one-way trips (whichever occurs first) per calendar month. Two exceptions to the deductible are travel in relation to a VA compensation or pension examination and travel requiring a special mode of transportation. The deductible may be waived when their imposition would cause a severe financial hardship.

The following are eligible for VA travel reimbursement:

1. Veterans whose service-connected disabilities are rated 30 percent or more.

2. Veterans traveling for treatment of service-connected conditions.

3. Veterans who receive a VA pension.

4. Veterans traveling for scheduled compensation or pension examinations.

5. Veterans whose gross household income does not exceed the maximum annual VA pension rate.

6. Veterans in certain emergency situations.

7. Veterans whose medical condition requires a special mode of transportation, if they are unable to defray the costs and travel is pre-authorized.

8. Certain non-veterans when related to care of a veteran (attendants & donors).

Beneficiary travel fraud can take money out of the pockets of deserving Veterans. Inappropriate uses of beneficiary travel benefits include: incorrect addresses provided resulting in increase mileage; driving/riding together and making separate claims; and taking no cost transportation, such as DAV, and making claims. Veterans making false statements for beneficiary travel reimbursement may be prosecuted under applicable laws.

To all veterans: The American Legion Trust Fund for 2011-2012 has been expended being used for the needs of our veterans. Funds, when and if approved, will be available as soon as possible after July 1, 2012. Make sure you apply for travel through the Veterans Administration whenever possible.

Operation Veteran Re-Connect

Operation Veteran Re-Connect will be held at 6 p.m. April 23 at the high school auditorium and Commons Area. Mark the date on your calendar and plan to attend.

Useful links

For further information on VA benefits, 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 The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the VSO office.

Durango VA Clinic

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


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 a.m., 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. (Buffalo Inn).

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