Female Troubles

The American military, and the U.S. Veterans Administration, has been hustling to adjust to the growing number of American veteran who are female. This is particularly urgent because more women are being killed or wounded in combat zones, including PTSD (stress) injures. Women, doctors have long known, do not respond to pain, injuries or stress in the same way that men do. Military medicine has had to adapt in order to provide adequate help for male and female troops with problems.

In the United States, women began entering the armed forces in a big way 40 years ago. Currently about 14 percent of active duty troops are women (and 18 percent of the reserves). At the same time, about eight percent of 22 million veterans are women, and six percent of patients in the Veterans Administration (VA) medical system are as well. By the end of the decade, ten percent of veterans will be female, as will be over nine percent of those receiving medical care from the VA.

All this has caused some problems for the VA, which initially failed to adequately prepare for the growing number of women joining (and destined to become veterans). Thus the VA suddenly found itself in unknown territory, because the last decade has produced, for the first time, a large number of female combat veterans. There are now about a quarter million of them, including over 5,000 receiving disability benefits (for injuries received in combat, or non-combat, operations).

The female veterans do not respond to the stresses of military service, or the physical injuries, the same way men do. This forced the VA to adapt, or at least try to. For example, more services have to be provided for female veterans, because they are, like their civilian counterparts, more likely (about twice as likely) to seek care. It's one of the reasons women live longer than men. They take better care of themselves, and do not suffer in silence.



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