WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake told women veterans on Friday that the agency is working to eliminate disparities in the care offered to women and men.
An internal review by the VA submitted to Congress last week found that women veterans aren't getting the same quality of outpatient care as men in about one-third of the VA's 139 facilities that offer it.
"We are making a full-court press to ensure that women veterans receive the highest quality of care," Peake said, speaking at the National Summit on Women Veterans' Issues, put on by the VA and veterans service organizations.
That internal report, first disclosed by The Associated Press a week ago, also said there are clear needs for more physicians trained in women's care and more equipment to meet women's health needs.
On Friday, Peake noted that in 1950, women made up about 2 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces, but the number has increased to about 14 percent. As more female soldiers return home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the percent of vets served by the VA is expected to nearly double in the next couple of years from the current 5 percent.
Peake said the VA recognizes that 86 percent of women veterans from the recent conflicts are under age 40, and have health needs related to having children. He said the agency is spending about $32 million for equipment specific to women's health needs.
He received courteous applause from the few hundred veterans in attendance, some of whom wore T-shirts that said, "Remember women are veterans too."