About VA Women's Health
About the Program
VA's Women Health Services office (Women's Health) provides programmatic and strategic support to implement positive changes in the provision of care for all women Veterans.
In 1988, the Women Veterans Health Program was created to streamline services for women Veterans in order to provide more cost-effective medical and psychosocial care. At that time 4.4 percent of Veterans were women. The current projected percentage of U.S. Veterans who are women is 8 percent. For the most recent projections, visit VetPOP.
The Women Veterans Health Program was elevated to a Strategic Health Care Group within the Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards in 2007, increasing its scope of activities to include all services provided to women Veterans. VA is actively addressing resource needs so that the proper training, as well as equipment and supplies (including DEXA scans, mammography machines, ultra-sound and biopsy equipment) are in place in facilities. Locate a facility to find out more.
As part of the realignment of the Veterans Health Administration, effective March 27, 2011, Women's Health became part of the Office of Patient Care Services (PCS) and the program office name was changed to Women's Health Services in August 2012. The reorganization affords greater opportunities for collaboration between Women's Health and programs including Primary Care, Mental Health, Specialty Care like cardiology and pain management, and other offices within PCS. Learn more about PCS.
Women Veterans Health Care addresses the health care needs of women Veterans and works to ensure that timely, equitable, high-quality, comprehensive health care services are provided in a sensitive and safe environment at VA health facilities nationwide. We strive to be a national leader in the provision of health care for women, thereby raising the standard of care for all women.
To fulfill this mission, Women Veterans Health Care works to make certain that all eligible women Veterans requesting VA care are assured of:
- Comprehensive primary care by a proficient and interested primary care provider
- Privacy, safety, dignity, and sensitivity to gender-specific needs
- The right care in the right place and time
- State-of-the-art health care equipment and technology
- High-quality preventive and clinical care, equal to that provided to male Veterans
Our strategic priorities focus on six pillars designed to deliver the best health care services to all women Veterans:
- Comprehensive primary care more
- Women's health education more
- Reproductive health more
- Communication and partnerships more
- Women's health research more
- Special populations more
Comprehensive Primary Care for Women Veterans
Women Veterans Health Care is coordinating closely with Primary Care Services to redesign the delivery of primary care to women Veterans to include gender-specific care at every VA site. Ultimately, comprehensive primary care delivered by a single provider in the same location—including gender-specific care and mental health—will be the predominant model of care throughout the VA health care network.
Through Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs), VA is implementing patient-centered care. PACTs provide accessible, coordinated, comprehensive care, and encourage patients to have an active role in their health care. Women's comprehensive health care serves as a model for VA's PACT initiative. Learn more.
Women's Health Education
Women Veterans Health Care partners with VA Employee Education Services (EES) to conduct mini-residencies in Women's Health. To date, nearly 1,500 VA providers have been trained. A second round of mini-residencies, covering additional women’s health topics got underway in late 2010, focused on more advanced women’s health topics. Grants released to the field allow for the training of additional providers by facilities. In addition, VA facilities are recruiting new providers interested and proficient in women’s health to meet the needs of its growing population of women Veterans.
Work is also ongoing with VA's Office of Academic Affiliations to support women's health fellowships and the Office of Nursing Service to provide advanced clinical training in women's health.
In collaboration with VA experts, Women Veterans Health Care is tackling women's reproductive health issues. Implementing safe prescribing measures for women Veterans of childbearing age is a top priority. Other important efforts include improving follow-up of abnormal mammograms, tracking the timeliness of breast cancer treatment, and ensuring coordination of care for women receiving non-VA, maternity and emergency department care.
Communication and Partnerships
Women Veterans Health Care is leading development of a VA-wide communication plan to enhance the language, practice and culture of VA to be more inclusive of women Veterans. A national Women Veterans Communications Workgroup was created to advise the office on communication strategies to reach women Veterans and VA employees. Branding Women Veterans Health Care with a powerful identity, including a visual logo and tagline—You Served, You Deserve the Best Care Anywhere—has helped establish a consistent, nationally recognized symbol for high quality services that women Veterans should expect at every VA facility.
Women Veterans Health Care also works closely with VA analysts and data specialists to ensure that women Veteran populations are represented clearly in statistical data, including demographics, epidemiology, health status, and quality of care. Enhanced web capabilities are continually being implemented to improve the transfer of information among field and leadership personnel.
Women's Health Research
VA Office of Research and Development (ORD) has a key role in documenting the health care needs and utilization of women Veterans as well as their access and quality of care. Valuable information can be gained through risk assessments conducted on epidemiological data from women who served in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) and through the OEF/OIF Cohort Study.
For the first time in 25 years, VA surveyed women Veterans across the country to (1) identify in a national sample the current status, demographics, health care needs, and VA experiences of women Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces; (2) determine how health care needs and barriers to VA health care use differ among women Veterans of different periods of military service; and (3) assess women Veterans' health care preferences in order to address VA barriers and health care needs. The interim report, released in summer 2010, informs policy and planning and provides a new baseline for program evaluation with regard to Veterans perceptions of VA health services.
Women Veterans Health Care has partnered with the Women's Health Evaluation Initiative based in Palo Alto, CA to develop a series of Sourcebooks with key descriptive information about women Veterans including demographics, population growth over time, diagnoses, utilization and cost of care.
Special Women Veteran Populations
WVHSHG is working to ensure that the needs of all women Veterans are addressed, including those populations that require special attention.
- Rural and homebound Veterans can benefit from emerging technology that will deliver care remotely through "e-clinics", mobile clinics, and home-based care services.
- Women Veterans with mental illnesses can benefit through integration of mental health services within primary care, so that necessary treatment is provided in a comprehensive and coordinated way. Women Veterans Health Care is also working to enhance the availability of woman-safe inpatient psychiatric acute units.
- Aging women Veterans can benefit from the latest advances in medical science and technology to identify and address cardiovascular disease as well as advances in treatments for diabetes, osteoporosis, and menopause.