Today, one of every five new military recruits in the United States is a woman. More than 280,000 women served in the post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 2.5 million veterans are women.

Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home, a landmark report by DAV (Disabled American Veterans), examines the challenges faced by women veterans, particularly when transitioning from military to civilian life. The study reveals serious gaps in healthcare, employment and housing services for women—our mothers, spouses, sisters, daughters—who have served this country.

Facing obstacles

Women in today’s military are exposed to the same combat and daily threat of wartime violence as men. Yet, when they return home, women are not treated with the same respect, consideration and care as their male counterparts. Rather, they are greeted by a support system for veterans that is designed by and dominated by men, putting too many women veterans at risk.

 “At a time when the number of women veterans is growing to unprecedented levels, our country is simply not doing enough to meet their health, social and economic needs,” said Joy J. Ilem, DAV’s deputy national legislative director. “The support systems currently in place are ill-equipped to meet the unique needs of the brave women who have defended our country.”

Addressing challenges

"Women veterans are at least twice as likely to become homeless than non-veteran women, and they have higher rates of unemployment compared to male veterans, but women report dissatisfaction with the support they receive."

Women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, have higher rates of PTSD symptoms than men, yet the report finds that specialized mental health services for women are not available at many VA and military health care centers. Women veterans are at least twice as likely to become homeless than non-veteran women, and they have higher rates of unemployment compared to male veterans, but women report dissatisfaction with the support they receive. And one-third of VA medical centers don’t even have a gynecologist on staff.

DAV’s report is a call to action for elected leaders, policymakers and public and private entities to make real changes that ensure women veterans receive the benefits and services they earned and deserve. The report lists 27 recommendations that, taken together, can help overhaul the culture of and services provided by federal agencies and community service providers.