Why Women's Health Transition Training?
Past research shows that there is a general lack of awareness among new women Veterans regarding women’s health care services available from VA leading to under enrollment in VA health care as compared to their male counterparts. Thus, these women, who may have more immediate/pressing routine healthcare needs than male Veterans of the same age (e.g., contraception, pregnancy care, routine preventive cancer screening) likely do not understand that they can easily obtain these services through VA at no or very low cost. In addition, many women who have separated from the military do not see themselves as Veterans and thus do not think they are eligible for VA care also leading to under enrollment in the VA health care system thereby increasing chances for delayed care.
In 2017, the VA-DoD Health Executive Committee (HEC) Women’s Health Workgroup convened over 50 women’s health leaders from DoD, VA, the military services, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Services (USUHS) to discuss the myriad of challenges for servicewomen transitioning back to civilian life. Break-out groups during this meeting brainstormed ideas that could be further developed into a viable and effective program to address and mitigate these challenges. In a near unanimous decision, the meeting attendees decided that a new one-day workshop for transitioning servicewomen only, focusing on health care resources available for women Veterans at the VA, including a “hot hand-off” to VA, would be the most beneficial. It was intended that this workshop be complementary to the existing Transition Assistance Program (TAP) to ensure that once the leave the military, these new women Veterans they take full advantage of VA health care available to them, including mental health services, reproductive health services, and maternity care benefits.
In 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Women’s Health Services partnered with the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team to develop and implement the VA Women’s Health Transition Training (WHTT) Pilot. VA began piloting the WHTT at five Air Force bases, including Scott AFB, IL, Hill AFB, UT, Andrews AFB, MD, MacDill AFB, FL and the Pentagon, VA in July 2018. The leading motivation behind these trainings was addressing the negative trends in health outcomes for the women Veteran population. Prior to the pilot, it was found that women Veterans did not understand what women’s health services were available from the VA to help address their health-related challenges. Additionally, Women Veterans faced unique and sometimes greater health-related challenges and were at higher risk of suicide soon after leaving military service compared to their male counterparts.
Starting in June 2019, transitioning servicewomen from the Army, Navy and Marines participated in the pilot program. At the conclusion of the pilot in December 2019, 669 servicewomen from all military services had participated in either one of the 74 in-person sessions or one of the 10 virtual sessions. Preliminary results among participants, as evidenced by pre- and post-training questionnaires, indicated that there had been a 238 percent increase in awareness of women’s health services available at VA, a 81 percent increase in awareness of suicide prevention services available at VA, a 102 percent increase in awareness of homelessness services available at VA, an 82 percent increase in how to navigate the VA health care system, and an 89 percent increase in preparedness and awareness of how to start the VA enrollment process. Furthermore, the participants who have since separated from the military enrolled in VA at a rate 114% higher than the average enrollment rate for women Veterans from the previous year with an associated decrease of 67% in median time to enrollment over baseline.
The WHTT pilot soon caught the attention of Congress, the media, and Veteran Service and Advocacy organizations. Thus, the VA/DoD Joint Executive Committee voted to make this program a permanent offering by the VA and requested that the Office of Women’s Health Services in consultation with the Veterans Benefits Administration Office of Transition and Economic Development and DoD partners develop and present a national phased roll-out plan to offer this training to all women transitioning out of the military in each of the services. In FY 20, VA plans a rapid scale up of this training and expects to deliver 100 in person training sessions and 18 virtual sessions making WHTT available to 100 percent of transitioning servicewomen both in the continental US and abroad.
Why VA Health Care?
Women are a distinct minority in VA and there is a widely held misperception of the exclusion of women. WHTT aims to educate women on the changes VA has made to include retired servicewomen. The VA health care system includes programs specially developed to serve the special health needs of transitioned servicewomen and includes infertility treatment, contraceptive services, nutrition, and military sexual trauma related care, and many other women-specific services. VA health care is uniquely qualified to address these health concerns. VA understands the experiences of military servicewomen. It has integrated mental health services within primary care, ensuring that the mental health needs of servicewomen, such as depression and PTSD, are immediately addressed to help prevent potential disease sequelae (e.g. substance abuse and suicide). VA health care promotes health screenings and assessment processes throughout the health care system to identify patients at risk for cancer, depression, and suicide. Patients who have been identified as being at high risk receive an enhanced level of care, including missed appointment follow up, safety planning, and individualized care plans that directly address their health needs. Look at what VA health care has to offer:
For additional information or to sign up for a training, please visit the Registration page.