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Women Veterans Task Force draft plan released, comment sought

The Department of Veterans Affairs is releasing for public comment a draft of its strategic report to address key issues facing women Veterans. The plan outlines steps for improvements to care and services for women Veterans that are sustainable, accountable and a part of the department’s culture and operations.

“Expanding care and services to women Veterans is too important to limit ourselves solely to the views within the department, so we are seeking feedback from all stakeholders, most importantly women Veterans themselves,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “The VA must be visionary and agile enough to anticipate and adjust not only to the coming increase in women Veterans, but also to the complexity and longevity of treatment needs.”

Shinseki formed a task force to develop an action plan to address women Veterans’ issues. Since then, the group has conducted a broad survey of department experts to identify those issues and organize them by priority. The draft report is an interim step prior to VA finalizing its overall plan.

The report comes at an important juncture in VA’s history that demands a review of the quality, quantity, and types of services and programs it provides to women Veterans. The number of women Veterans using VA has increased 83 percent in the past decade, from about 160,000 to over 292,000 between fiscal years 2000 and 2009, compared with a 50 percent increase in men.

Women are now the fastest growing cohort within the Veteran community. In 2011, about 1.8 million or 8 percent of the 22.2 million Veterans were women. The male Veteran population is projected to decrease from 20.2 million men in 2010 to 16.7 million by 2020. In contrast, the number of women Veterans will increase from 1.8 million in 2011 to 2 million in 2020, at which time women will make up 10.7 percent of the total Veteran population.

VA is training providers in basic and advanced topics in women’s health through mini-residencies, and over 1,200 providers have currently received training. Comprehensive women’s health care can be provided within three different models of care, including comprehensive women’s clinics; separate, but shared space women’s clinics; or integrated primary care clinics.  All of these clinic models ensure that women receive all of their primary health care (prevention, medical and routine gynecologic care) by a single primary care provider. A network of medical directors and program managers who coordinate care for women Veterans now encompasses all 153 medical centers in the VA Health Care System.

The public notice and instructions for how to submit comments will be posted at www.regulations.gov. The draft written report will be open for comment for 30 days, and responders will have a number of options to provide both electronic and written feedback. Readers will also be able to participate in a public discussion board on the Internet at http://vawomenvetstratplan.uservoice.com/forums/159415-general.

To view the report without making recommendations, please visit VA’s website at: http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/Draft_2012_Women-Veterans_StrategicPlan.pdf.

American Legion fund

The American Legion Trust Fund for 2011-2012 has been expended, being used for the needs of our Veterans. Funds, when approved, may be available after July 1, 2012. Ensure that you apply for travel through the Veteran’s Administration whenever possible.

More information

For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Pagosa Springs Community Center, on Hot Springs Blvd. 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 applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the VSO office.

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

Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: Every other Monday 6 p.m., St. Patrick Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Karen at 731-0413.

Point Man Ministry: Every Thursday at 9 a.m., Buffalo Inn.

Durango VA Clinic

The Durango VA Outpatient Clinic is located at 1970 E. 3rd Ave. Durango, Colo., 81301 (Behind Durango Public Library or turn on East 20th Street at Peerless Tires and go east). Phone number is (970) 247-2214.

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