A Salute to Vietnam-Era Women Veterans

On March 24, the Center for Women Veterans hosted “A Salute to Vietnam-Era Women Veterans” at VA Central Office in Washington, DC. As a Commemorative Partner with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration (http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/), the objectives of the salute were to engage a panel of women Veterans who served during the commemoration period November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of location. The panelists included: the Honorable Linda Spoonster Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning; Ms. Barbara Ward, Director, Center for Minority Veterans; Ms. Karen Vartan, VA’s Navigation, Advocacy & Community Engagement; and Ms. Marsha Four, Vice President, Vietnam Veterans of America. This program focused on the many roles women in the military served during this era. A grateful nation thanks and honors our Vietnam Veterans. View the event video at http://players.brightcove.net/2851863979001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4876159546001. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced the appointment of a new director of the Center for Women Veterans

May 3, 2016, 02:29:00 PM
Kayla M. Williams assumed duties this week as director, serving as primary advisor to the Secretary on Department policies, programs and legislation that affect women veterans.  She is a member of the Army Education Advisory Committee, a former member of the VA Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, a 2013 White House Woman Veteran Champion of Change, and a 2015 Lincoln Award recipient.

She worked eight years at the RAND Corporation conducting research on service member and veteran health needs and benefits, international security, and intelligence policy.

Williams graduated cum laude with a BA in English Literature from Bowling Green State University and earned an MA in International Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from American University.

The Center for Women Veterans was established by Congress in November 1994 by Public Law (P.L.) 103-446 and monitors and coordinates VA’s administration of health care and benefits services and programs for women Veterans. The Center serves as an advocate for a cultural transformation in recognizing the service and contributions of women veterans and women in the military.

USAF General Robinson Likely as Next NORTHCOM Head

By Aaron Mehta3:14 p.m. EST January 8, 2016
WASHINGTON — Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson is the Obama administration's likely choice as the next head of US Northern Command, sources say, a move which would make her the first woman to lead a combatant command.
Rumors have circulated inside the Pentagon for weeks that Robinson is being considered for the role, including a Wall Street Journal report which named her as the likely nominee. Two sources today confirmed the rumors to Defense News, although both warned that with nominations, nothing is locked in until a final decision has been made.
Seen as a rising star in the Air Force, Robinson has shot through the ranks, adding a star a year from 2012 through 2014.
In June of 2012, just before current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh took office, Robinson was a two-star serving as deputy commander, US Air Forces Central Command; less than a year later, she pinned on her third star in May of 2013 and became vice commander, Air Combat Command.
Then in October 2014, she pinned on her fourth star and took over as commander, Pacific Air Forces. With the PACAF assignment, Robinson became the first US female four-star to command combat forces.
"She's highly capable, highly competent, and she will do a great job," one of the sources said of Robinson.
If Robinson takes the NORTHCOM role, it would remove her from the running to replace Welsh later this year. There has been a strong belief both inside and outside the Pentagon that Robinson is a favorite of Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, but there were questions about whether Robinson has enough experience to become Chief.
(Photo: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Army seeks enlisted women for infantry, armor and 12 other combat jobs

Jim Tice, Army Times5:32 p.m. EDT April 4, 2016

Calling all female soldiers interested in going infantry or armor.
For the first time, the Army has issued a new menu of reclassification options for active Army enlisted women whose careers are stalled in overstrength military occupational specialties to make the switch to infantry, armor and several other combat arms MOSs that until just recently were closed to women.
Under the new career change opportunities, the Army will allow the reclassification, as a secondary MOS, of women soldiers into 14 previously closed combat specialties, many of which do not meet the requirements for a standard primary MOS change as stipulated in the Reclassification In/Out Calls.

Women who meet the In/Out Call rules for a standard primary MOS job change do not require a waiver of policy and can proceed with a regular PMOS reclassification request.
The In/Out Calls indicate by grade and MOS what specialties are overstrength, understrength or balanced, and whether they are open or closed to transfers.
The calls were last updated Jan. 12 and can be viewed below.

​Because the Army is in the midst of a major drawdown, many of its major ground combat MOSs are overstrength and closed to regular reclassifications.
The Army has for the first time issued reclassification options for female enlisted soldiers who want to go into a combat arms MOS. These jobs were recently opened to women, just like the Army's storied Ranger School. Three female soldiers have earned the coveted Ranger tab. Here, soldiers, including Capt. Kristen Griest, one of the first female graduates, conduct mountaineering training during the Ranger Course on Mount Yonah, Ga. (Photo: Staff Sgt. Scott Brooks/Army)
To qualify for the new reclassification opportunities, women in the Regular Army must be serving in an overstrength specialty and request transfer to one of the following as a secondary MOS:
• 11B (infantryman)
• 11C (indirect fire infantryman)
• 12B (combat engineer)
• 13B (cannon crewmember)
• 13D (field artillery automated tactical data system specialist)
• 13F (fire support specialist)
• 13M (MLRS crewmember)
• 13P (MLRS operational dire direction specialist)
• 13R (field artillery Firefinder radar operator)
• 19D (cavalry scout)
• 19K (M1 tank crewmember)
• 91A (M1 tank system maintainer)
• 91M (track vehicle repairer)
• 91P (artillery mechanic)
By designating the reclassification specialty as a secondary MOS, personnel managers are providing female soldiers with an opportunity to attend training and serve in specialties that previously were closed to women. This strategy allows women to remain in their current primary MOS for promotion purposes.
Female soldiers may, in the future, request to convert their secondary MOS to their primary MOS when the In/Out calls allow such a change. Presumably that will occur when the Army gets smaller and the specialty content of the force comes into balance with requirements.
Female enlisted soldiers must meet the following criteria to request reclassification under terms of the new policy:
Be in the rank of nonpromotable sergeant or below.
Hold a primary MOS and requested secondary MOS that do not meet the reclassification rules in the current version of In/Out Calls. (Soldiers who meet the In/Out Call rules do not require a waiver of policy and qualify for a standard reclassification).
Meet the MOS standards described in DA Pamphlet 611-21 (Military Occupational Classification and Structure).
Be recommended for reclassification by their immediate commander.
Soldiers approved for this job change program will attend training in a temporary duty status en route to a follow-on assignment in their new secondary MOS. Soldiers who do not successfully complete training will be reassigned in their primary MOS.
Soldiers who are interested in this program should contact their local career counselor.

Matthew L. Schehl, Marine Corps Times8 a.m. EDT April 2, 2016

Marine female engagement team trains high-speed Kuwaiti force

A Marine female engagement team recently wrapped up a mission in Kuwait where they trained members of an elite security force tasked with protecting some of that country's highest-profile women.
Last month, a detachment from the North Carolina-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit trained members of the Kuwaiti interior ministry’s VIP Protection Unit, Female Division, which is similar to the U.S. Secret Service. It's the second time a MEU has deployed with a FET since disbanding the all-women teams four years ago in Afghanistan.
The female team was able to bridge a gap in a country where cultural norms would make it inappropriate for women there to be trained by male Marines, said Capt. Jamie Ash, the FET’s officer in charge and adjutant for the 26th MEU.
“It was definitely a unique opportunity,” she said. “It really offered us the chance to build relationships that our male counterparts in the military are unable to.”
Over two weeks, the Marines honed the Kuwaitis’ abilities to conduct personnel security operations, including reacting to contact, close quarter combat, detainee search and handling techniques, marksmanship and self-defense. The Kuwaitis were particularly interested in learning more about self-defense, Ash said.
A staff sergeant on the FET, the 26th MEU’s maintenance management chief, also happened to be a black belt Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor.
“She was a great asset while we were there,” Ash said. “They don’t have female [martial arts] instructors, so that was an interesting engagement.”
The Marines learned from the Kuwaiti women as well, said Staff Sgt. Ellen Holland, the 26th MEU’s mobility chief.
“They wear the hijab, the head covering, and how they do their search procedures because of their culture [differs],” she explained. “Whereas we, the FET, would just look to see if women have nothing in their hair, they would actually do a rake through the head covering to make sure there’s nothing in their hijab.”
On the last day of training, the Marines led an integrated exercise so the Kuwaitis could demonstrate what they’d learned to their leaders.
The FET compiled an after action review and lessons learned, which they will share with the 13th MEU when it relieves the 26th.
Reviving FETs 
The need to work through such cultural differences led to the original creation of FETs at the height of the counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In societies with well-established gender norms that prohibit women from interacting with men outside of family, female tactical teams would build relationships, assess need for aid, conduct searches and gather intelligence from the half of the population male troops couldn't access.
In August 2012, with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on the horizon, the Marines disbanded their last FET as they prepared to hand over responsibility to the country's nascent security forces. Since then, however, the operational need for FETs didn’t go away as Marines continued training and advising Middle Eastern partners, Lt. Col. Steve Kahn, operations officer for the 15th MEU, told Marine Corps Times last August.
The 15th MEU revived the FET mission in September in response to requests from partner nations, he said. That allowed the Marine Corps to perform new security cooperation missions, including one in Qatar in which the FET training local forces
The 15th MEU’s success inspired Marines with the 26th MEU to approach their command prior to deploying to replace them, Ash said.
“The commanders were very supportive of this; they understood and realized it was an important mission,” she said. “It meant giving up Marines out of their primary jobs to be able to train and conduct this engagement.”
Ash and Holland, who were responsible for assembling the team, said they had no shortage of volunteers. Marines from a wide range of military occupational specialties stepped forward, including aviation ordnance, legal and maintenance.
“One of the unique capabilities of the MEU is its broad spectrum of capabilities,” Ash said. “We had so many females interested in participating in the team that we were able to do screening and really put together the best team from it.”
Since the 15 women were new to the FET mission, Holland got input from the MEU's law enforcement and maritime raid force detachments while working on the training plan.
Since they've deployed, the FET has conducted specific training in personnel security detail operations and close-quarter combat, she said.
“It was definitely a good experience just to be able to see a bunch of different Marines come together with different backgrounds and all have one mission to accomplish,” she said.
U.S. Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conduct live-fire training with the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior VIP Protection Unit, Female Division during an exchange with the 26th MEU’s Female Engagement Team. The 26th MEU is embarked on the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and is deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Lindsay Pirek/Released)(Photo: Capt. Lindsay Pirek/Marine Corps)
Cpl. Leslie Souza, a member of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s female engagement team, reviews a target during live-fire training with the Kuwait Ministry of the Interior VIP Protection Unit, Female Division. (Photo: Capt. Lindsay Pirek/Marine Corps)
 Help for Female Veterans
The total Veteran population in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Territories/Foreign, as of September 30, 2015, was 21,680,534. Of that number, women Veterans numbered 2,035,213. Texas, California, Florida, Virginia and Georgia have the largest number of female veterans. However, among recent veterans, women are the fastest growing group.
Many female veterans do not self-identify as veterans, do not participate in veterans organizations or use VA services. Although the reasons for this may be complex, AMRA hopes that our members will help raise the awareness of female veterans they may know. There is quite a bit on offer for them, and may help them out financially, too.
Gender-specific Services
Female veterans may be eligible for Pap smears, mammography, prenatal and childcare. They should a
pply for VA health care enrollment by completing VA Form 10-10EZ which may be obtained by visiting, calling, or writing any VA health care facility or Veterans' benefits office. You can also call toll-free 1-877-222 VETS (1-877-222-8387).  
Maternity Benefits
The VA provides maternity benefits to eligible women Veterans. Public Law 111-163 authorizes VA to furnish health care services, for not more than 7 days, to a newborn child of a women Veteran who delivered the child in a VA facility or in another facility pursuant to a VA contract for such care.
Children born to women Veterans who served in Vietnam may also be eligible for certain benefits.

Women's Heart Health
NEW ORLEANS â€” Air Force veteran Liz Skilbeck recently got a new license plate for her vehicle that identifies it as being driven by a female veteran. Before that, the license plate just identified it as being driven by a veteran, causing people to thank her husband for his service.
"It was 'Thanks for your support. What did your husband do?' And my husband didn't," Skilbeck said.
Skilbeck is one of 50 female veterans coming together this weekend in a conference put together by The Mission Continues, an organization that connects veterans with public service projects. The conference aims to bring together the women — all volunteers with The Mission Continues — to share their unique experiences, inspire them with some strong role models and help them learn new skills.
"I think no matter where we are, no matter what battles we've overcome, it's just good to be around strong women," Skilbeck said.
The Mission Continues has been around since 2007, but this is the first time they've had an event just for women, said Laura L'Esperance, the organization's senior vice president of brand and communications. She said they decided to do a women-specific conference after doing a study of their programs and noticing that while women make up about 15 percent of active duty troops, they made up roughly double that share of some of the organization's programs.
But in a society that often equates the military with men, she said female vets often feel invisible when they leave the service. Hopefully through this conference the women will gain a new network and new skills to prepare them for whatever challenges they face next, she said.
"Men and women join the military for the same reason," she said. "But culturally their experiences in the military and after service are very different."
The women come from all over the country and a range of ages, although most are post-9/11 veterans. Skilbeck joined the Air Force in early 2001 and specialized in how to dispose of explosive ordnance. She left the service in March 2005 after multiple surgeries made it impossible to continue. Skilbeck said she struggled after leaving the Air Force. Working with The Mission Continues has given her a chance to contribute to society while working alongside veterans who understand what she's been through: "That's something I really missed."
The conference comes at a time of immense change for women in the military. The Defense Department this year opened up all combat jobs to women. Some generals have raised the prospect of women registering for the draft. The defense department is also pushing family-friendly proposals such as doubling the fully paid maternity leave for female service members.
The conference will feature speakers like Michele Flournoy, co-founder of the Center for New America Security whose name has been mentioned as the possible first woman to head the Pentagon, and sisters Betsy Nunez and Emily Nunez Cavness, who confounded a company to repurpose military waste into bags and purses.
Rachel Gutierrez, who joined the Army in 2000 and deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005, said she's looking forward to talking with one of the featured speakers, Brig. Gen. Helen Pratt, and connecting with other women. Like Skilbeck, she's run into multiple situations where she's not recognized as a veteran — for example, going to a veterans' hospital and people assuming she's a caretaker for a male veteran.
"I think for a woman veteran that can become super alienating," she said. She's helped launch two platoons — teams of volunteer veterans — in the Phoenix area. "We are over 400 veterans strong and we are absolutely not male dominated."

Rebecca Santana, The Associated Press11:25 a.m. EDT April 1, 2016

Female veterans and active duty and future Marines were united in early March 2016 by the Women’s Marine Association to recognize Women’s History Month and celebrate the 73rd anniversary of proudly serving in the Marine Corps.(Photo: Cpl. Jared Lingafelt/Marine Corps)
By Pamela Berard
April 1st, 2016

Legislation in response to hike in female veterans’ suicide rate

Proposed legislation would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop gender-specific suicide prevention programs.
The “Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act” (H.R. 2915) directs the VA to identify mental health care and suicide prevention programs and metrics that are most effective in treating women veterans.
The legislation, passed by the House of Representatives in early February, was in response to an increase in suicide in female veterans detailed in a recent VA study.
Researchers tracked more than 174,000 veteran and non-veteran suicides from 2000 to 2010 and found that the rate of suicide among female veterans increased 40 percent during that time period.
Women account for 10 percent of the veteran population and are the fastest growing subpopulation of veterans treated by the VA, according to information released from the office of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Blumenthal co-sponsored the Senate version of the legislation (S. 2487), which has been referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs.
“With suicide among women veterans happening at an alarming rate, this bill will help save lives by ensuring VA is providing the care, counseling and outreach these veterans need,” Blumenthal said.
Heather O’Beirne Kelly, Ph.D., lead psychologist for military and veterans policy, senior legislative and federal affairs officer, for the American Psychological Association, said the APA supports the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act.
“H.R. 2915 directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to specifically identify and evaluate mental health care and suicide prevention programs that meet the critical needs of women veterans and to include women as a focus in relevant research programs,” Kelly said.
The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, signed into law in 2015, required an “independent third party” to evaluate the VA’s mental healthcare and suicide prevention programs. This new legislation would amend that law to also require “specific metrics applicable to women and to identify the VA mental health care and suicide prevention programs that are most effective and have the highest patient satisfaction rates among women veterans.”
Kelly said the VA has a very active portfolio of research and programming to identify and address the particular needs of women veterans, if and when they are different than the needs of male veterans. â€œIn some areas this is an obvious issue, like when female veterans have gynecological needs or are pregnant, for example,” Kelly said.
“In terms of suicide, female veterans accessing care at the VA have shown an increasing and disturbingly higher rate when compared to women in similar but ‘civilian’ cohorts. Women veterans die by suicide at almost six times the rate of other women and women veterans are five times more likely to die by suicide than male veterans,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the APA also supports the second aspect of the legislation, which mandates that veterans who served in classified missions while on active duty be offered comprehensive mental health treatment within the VA that is sensitive to those veterans’ ongoing security needs.
Parents of a young veteran advocated for this measure after their son was assigned to group therapy at the VA and expressed concerns about the possibility of inadvertently sharing classified information in that setting while in the presence of those without appropriate clearances, Kelly said.
That veteran ultimately died by suicide and his parents worked to have language added in this bill ensuring that veterans who participated in classified missions could “access mental health care in a manner that fully accommodates their obligation to not improperly disclose classified information,” Kelly said.
“Should the Senate bill pass and then be conferenced with the House bill a.nd signed into law by the President, the VA would be required to find alternative methods of mental health treatment for this group of veterans that meets their security needs,” Kelly said

Caring for Older Women Veterans Presents Unique Challenges

April 2016 | Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) | News | Women's Health
​By Brenda L. Mooney
SEATTLE — When it comes to health issues, older female veterans aren’t always like other women, according to a series of new studies seeking to determine why.
The differences range from lower self-perception of health in those aging veterans to higher smoking rates. Women who had previously served in the U.S. military also had greater declines in cognitive functions, more hip fractures and, for those serving before the Vietnam era, higher all-cause mortality rates.
Those findings are detailed in a new supplemental issue of The Gerontologist, including 13 articles by VA and colleagues probing the differences in aging issues and mortality between veteran and nonveteran women. 1
Data came from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a long-term study which began in 1991 and is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. WHI researchers followed nearly 162,000 postmenopausal women — 3,700 of whom were veterans — from 40 medical centers across the United States for more than 20 years, collecting data on health status, disease, health behaviors and social and psychological factors.
Leading the effort to compare health and mortality between veterans and nonveterans in the sample were Gayle Reiber, PhD, MPH, a senior career scientist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, and Andrea LaCroix, PhD, professor and chief of epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego, and a senior investigator at the WHI Clinical Coordinating Center. More than 60 VA and non-VA researchers also were involved.
“The women veterans in WHI have taught us that prior military service identifies a group of women who face special challenges as they grow older,” LaCroix pointed out. “With women choosing to serve our country in greater numbers and expanded roles, including combat, it is essential to learn about their healthcare needs after leaving service now and in the future.”
In general, women veterans reported lower levels of self-perceived health, life satisfaction, social support, physical function and quality of life, according to the study, which also found that, while women veterans and nonveterans were similar at baseline in mental-function tests, declines in cognitive function over time were greater in the veteran group. Women veterans also suffered more hip-fracture rates than nonveterans, although that was not the case with other types of fractures.
Smoking and exposure to passive smoke was a  more significant issue for women veterans, resulting in a greater risk for lung cancer, the research noted. Women veterans serving before the Vietnam era also experienced more cancer, in general, relative to nonveterans. In fact, all-cause mortality rates were higher for those earlier veterans.
Women serving in the military during or after Vietnam, meanwhile, had more traumatic injuries from motor-vehicle accidents or other causes, according to the results, although their overall mortality rates were no higher than nonveterans.
Reiber suggested several reasons why health outcomes might differ between veteran and nonveteran women as they age. While the conventional wisdom is that servicemembers tend to be healthier in general than their nonmilitary counterparts, that often is offset by other factors, she explained.
“Women veterans were considered ‘healthy soldiers,’ because joining the military meant passing a variety of tests — education, aptitude, physical ability, mental function. It also meant maintaining physical fitness and receiving healthcare,” Reiber pointed out. “Yet, women veterans may have been more likely to engage in health behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol use and poor diet, and this, combined with exposure to hazardous environments and mental and physical stress, may have limited their ability to adapt to repeated stresses over the lifetime.”
She noted that, while the authors could not “pinpoint all of the reasons for health differences among women veterans, compared with nonveterans, these findings do identify ways to improve health and healthcare for this special group of older women.”
Study authors proposed that many women veterans could benefit from programs promoting physical activity, social connections, healthy weight and smoking cessation. They also stressed the importance of evaluation for depression.
Aging Women
The studies pointed out that women aged 80 years and older are emerging as a large and critically important demographic group — 6.6 million women were aged 80 years and older in 2012, which accounts for 4% of the total female population and 2% of the entire U.S. population. By 2026, when the first baby boomers will become octogenarians, women aged 80 years and older are projected to comprise nearly 12% of the total female population and 6% of the entire population.
At the same time, the number of women veterans in these age groups also is increasing in line with greater opportunities for expanded roles and advancement for women in the military. In 2014, the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics veteran population projection model noted that 2.0 million U.S. women have a history of military service — including the 400,000 women serving during the World War II era, the 120,000 serving during the Korean conflict and the 265,000 who volunteered to serve during the Vietnam era. Overall, more than 16% of female veterans are older than 65 years.
The number of women veterans older than 65 years is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade, including an 83% increase in those older than 65 years — from 332,000 women veterans in 2014 to more than 608,000 in 2025.
Currently, active duty forces are 15% women, and, with the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq being the longest sustained U.S. military operation since the Vietnam War, research cited in background information in the special issue found that returning women veterans are more likely than men to experience depression, musculoskeletal disorders and adjustment disorders.
Noting that dearth of studies on the health characteristics of older women veterans, particularly those from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, one of the studies focused on significantly lower perceived health, physical function, life satisfaction, social support, quality of life and purpose in life scale scores in female veterans 80 or older, compared with nonveterans.1
The greatest difference was in physical function scores — 53.0 for veterans vs. 59.5 for nonveterans, according to the report, which noted that “women veterans were significantly more likely to die prior to age 80 years than nonveteran WHI participants,” with an odds ratio of 1.20.
Women veterans also were older on average than nonveteran women and more likely to be Caucasian and college graduates. They were less likely, however, to ever have been married or to be living with spouse or partner at baseline. Veterans in the WHI cohort also were significantly more likely to be current or past smokers, to consume alcohol, yet they reported higher mean physical activity levels, were less likely to be overweight or obese and slightly less likely to be depressed, compared with their nonveteran peers.
“In both veteran and nonveteran women, healthy survival was associated with not smoking, higher physical activity, healthy body weight and fewer depressive symptoms,” the authors wrote, suggesting that “intervening upon smoking, low physical activity, obesity and depressive symptoms has potential to improve chances for healthy survival in older women including veterans.”
With female veterans 80 or older somewhat less likely to report at least good perceived health, compared with nonveterans, almost one-third of them (32%) were living in a residential environment that provided services for older people, compared with only 22% of nonveteran women. They also had significantly lower scores on the satisfaction with life, social support, quality of life and purpose in life scales.

Overall in the WHI study:
31% of women survived to age 80 years without major disease or mobility disability;
18% lived to age 80 years with baseline disease but no incident disease or mobility disability, whereas 23% developed incident disease,
12% developed mobility disability with or without incident disease: and
16% did not survive to age 80 years.

Those percentages didn’t differ much among veterans, but the probability of death prior to age 80 years was significantly higher among veteran women, compared with nonveterans after adjustment for age alone, with an odds ratio of 1.17.
“Why would a history of military service influence healthy survival, physical function and quality of life in older women?” study authors asked. Among the answers is that women who make the nontraditional life choice of enlisting are much more likely to be unmarried than other women and men at every age group.  
“Second, women who served in the military may have been exposed to experiences that altered their subsequent life course, such as military sexual trauma, environmental exposures associated with their military jobs or post-traumatic stress disorder,” according to the researchers. “The WHI data are unable to shed light on the extent to which these factors influenced the findings reported herein. “
In terms of medical services, the study projected that 87% of the female veterans received healthcare outside of the VA system.
“Women veterans differ from nonveterans in having military exposures, being more likely to have experienced interpersonal violence, including sexual trauma, and having a higher prevalence of selected physical and mental health disorders,” according to an editorial by Reiber and LaCroix. “Caring for older women veterans in the future will be influenced by their growing numbers and their greater likelihood of exposure to combat and its associated long-term physical and mental health challenges.” 2

1LaCroix AZ, Rillamas-Sun E, Woods NF, Weitlauf J, Zaslavsky O, Shih R, LaMonte MJ, Bird C, Yano EM, LeBoff M, Washington D, Reiber G. Aging Well Among Women Veterans Compared With Non-Veterans in the Women’s Health Initiative. The Gerontologist. 2016 Feb;56 Suppl 1:S14-26. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv124. PubMed PMID: 26768388.
2 Reiber GE, LaCroix AZ. Older Women Veterans in the Women’s Health Initiative. TheGerontologist. 2016 Feb;56 Suppl 1:S1-5. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv673. PubMed PMID: 26768382.