Sunday, November 1, 2009

life follows capstone: an update

Almost three years ago, capstoner Liz Weeker wrote two investigative pieces on women Iraq War vets. In the first, for her magazine class, she wrote of the new military face of Post Traumatic Stress disorder: women.

Her capstone piece ran a lot deeper: the inability of the VA to develop programs to specifically treat these women, whose issues were often very much different than their males counterparts. What she found was that the VA had yet to catch up.

An article in today's New York Times suggests the VA still hasn't gotten it right -- not only with programs geared specifically for women, but with even recognizing the diagnosis. From the piece:

For some women with post-traumatic stress, like Angela Peacock in St. Louis, the V.A. has been a godsend. She said that the doctors who helped her detoxify from drug and alcohol addiction saved her from suicide.

Many others, however, insist that the military, the V.A. and other established veterans organizations have not fully adapted to women’s new roles. The military, they say, still treats them like wives, not warriors.

Some therapists, case workers and female patients also say that because military regulations governing women’s roles have not caught up with reality, women must work harder to prove they saw combat and get the benefits they deserve.

V.A. officials, including Ms. Duckworth, say there is no systemic bias. V.A. statistics show that as of July 2009, 5,103 female Iraq or Afghanistan veterans had received disability benefits for the stress disorder, compared with 57,732 males.

But the V.A. did not provide the number of men and women who had applied, making a comparison of rejection rates impossible.

At best, women are caught in the same bureaucratic morass as men; the backlog for disability claims from all veterans climbed to 400,000 in July, up from 253,000 six years ago. At worst, women are sometimes held to a tougher standard.

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