I was very pleased to be featured Tuesday in a two-hour Women Veterans Seminar during the 95th DAV Convention. Dr. Nancy Glowacki gave an overview of women Veteran employment statistics and employment assistance programs at the Department of Labor (DOL).
Following our presentations, DAV’s assistant national legislative director Shurhonda Love moderated a Q&A with the enthusiastic, vocal and passionate audience members. Highlights of the dialogue included the following:
- DOL is working to raise awareness about their employment services for Veterans, which are available at almost 2500 American Job Centers nationwide. Women Veterans can find the American Job Center closest to them by using the CareerOneStop Mobile App or visiting http://www.careeronestop.org.
- Veterans receive priority of service at all American Jobs Centers and Veterans with significant barriers to employment receive more intensive case management by Disabled Veteran Outreach Program specialists. Meanwhile, local Veteran Employment Representatives assist local employers in hiring Veterans. More information is available in the Employment Assistance for Women Veterans webinar.
- In addition to employment services, American Job Centers have partnerships with complementary federal, state and local services, so women Veterans are encouraged to discuss their full individual situation and needs during the initial intake so that they can be connected to additional services.
- The Center for Women Veterans is involved in two recent strategic partnerships. Academy Women’s eMentor program pairs individual women with mentors, while LeanInWomenVeterans facilitates peer mentoring in facilitated circles.
- Women Veterans are applying for disability compensation at roughly the same rates as men; however, word of mouth can be an important way to reach women Veterans who may not know they’re eligible. Sharing information about VA benefits and encouraging women who may not know they’re eligible to connect with service officers are ways we can make a difference in our personal networks.
- Many women Veterans are interested in serving on Federal Advisory Committees. Information on how to apply for open positions on VA advisory committees is available from the VA Advisory Committee Management Office; opportunities to nominate members for Advisory Committees at DOL and other federal agencies are also posted in the Federal Register.
- VA is implementing comprehensive women’s health at all sites of care. The goal is for there to be full-time designated women’s health providers (DWHPs) at all medical centers and clinics who can provide general primary care and gender specific care. In unusual cases where DWHPs are not available, women can be referred to other VA sites or the community for gender-specific care needs.
- Combating homelessness among women Veterans may be complicated by restricted definitions in some programs and regulations; however, both agencies have programs to help. Contact the VA homelessness call center at 877-4AID-VET or contact the DOL VETS Director in your state by clicking here and using the dropdown menu “Find a VETS Office.”
- For women Veteran entrepreneurs, available resources include the VA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, the Small Business Administration, and Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (VWISE); more information can be found on veterans.gov, “Start Your Own Business.”
A recurring theme throughout the discussion was the frustration expressed by women Veterans – both panelists and audience members – who sometimes feel overlooked by and invisible to the general public, fellow Veterans and at VA facilities. Several shared experiences in which people assumed we were spouses, siblings or parents of Veterans rather than recognized as Veterans in our own rights. Several strategies and suggestions were shared to combat this multiple levels, such as individual women wearing clothing and insignia indicating our Veteran status and organizations like DAV, VA and DOL including images of women Veterans and using inclusive language in materials as a matter of course.
Shurhonda Love encouraged audience members to take part in these cultural transformation efforts by posing with the VA I’m One campaign poster in the room and sharing their selfies; a line of proud women Veterans excited to do so quickly formed. Their dedication to finding ways to raise the profile of women Veterans and ensure we are treated with dignity and respect in all sectors was a testament to the commitment DAV has long shown to women Veterans – with seminars like these, reports, and the efforts of their Commander’s Action Network, among other initiatives – and to the power of strong community bonds.