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Center for Women Veterans turns 20.

The Center for Women Veterans (CWV), established with the support and urging from DAV and other veterans service organizations, celebrated two decades of serving women veterans in November.

"Our nation has 359,000 women serving right now--about 16 percent of the active, Guard and Reserve force," said VA Secretary Robert McDonald during a ceremony recognizing the center's anniversary. "Women veterans represent 10.5 percent of all veterans in the United States. They have earned the title of veteran, and were proud to honor them all."

In November 1994, Public Law 03-446 required the VA to create the CWV as a means to monitor and coordinate VA programs for women. Late VA Secretary and former DAV National Headquarters Executive Director Jesse Brown supervised the office's establishment. This was more than a decade after the VA first created the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans in 1983 in response to the 1980 census, which for the first time asked women to identify themselves as veterans. An astonishing 1.2 million respondents said yes, and in response, the VA and Congress focused their efforts on ensuring women veterans were aware of the benefits available to them.

Two years following the creation of the CWV, the VA hosted the first-ever National Summit on Women Veterans Issues. DAV was the first major veterans service organization to co-host what has become a popular, reoccurring event that brings veterans across the country together to collaborate on issues facing women veterans.

In the years following the center's creation, noticeable progress has been made in caring for our women veterans. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Boston VA medical center created its Women's Health Sciences Division in 1994. In 1999, the VA was authorized to provide prenatal and obstetrical care to eligible veterans, signaling a new focus on gender-specific services for women veterans. The following year, the VA allocated funds to support programs specifically designated for women veterans who are homeless. The sunset provision for sexual trauma counseling in the VA was extended permanently in 2004. By 2008, there were more than 27 research projects funded by the VA specifically addressing issues impacting women veterans.

The list of accomplishments continues to expand under the leadership of Elisa Basnight, the current Director of the Center for Women Veterans. "Looking forward, 2015's substantive focus follows up on 2014's, with a focus on employment and entrepreneurship, as it relates to women veterans," said Basnight, referencing the center's 2014 emphasis on enhancing women veterans' competitiveness in order to prevent homelessness. "CWV would like to build and enhance partnerships that can enable women veterans to build economic stability and improve their wellbeing and that of their families," continued Basnight.

"I come to work each and every day motivated to make a difference for our approximately 2 million extraordinary women veterans, whose service spans multiple generations and eras of war and peace," said Basnight, who has served at the center's top post since her appointment in 2013. "As an Army veteran, the daughter of a Navy veteran and a member of a family dedicated to military service, I am personally tied to the VA's mission of caring for veterans, and the Center for Women Veterans' goal of ensuring that women veterans receive the respect they deserve."

Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine applauded the centers two decades of service to women veterans. "Since the Center for Women Veterans opened its doors two decades ago, the VA has demonstrated it is committed to ensuring that the women who served have access to the benefits they've earned," said Augustine. "While great strides have been made, there is work yet to be done. DAV outlined these areas of need in the landmark study, 'Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home.'

"DAV commissioned this report to shed light on the unique challenges facing women as they transition out of military service," continued Augustine. "While the study shows there are still many gaps to fill, I have complete confidence that the VA can step up to the challenge.

"The Center for Women Veterans illustrates the VA's commitment to meeting the needs of all eras of women veterans," he said. "DAV is proud to have worked alongside them for the past 20 years, and we look forward to continuing to work together to best serve women veterans for years to come."

Basnight echoed Augustine's sentiment. "Women veterans have benefitted from DAV's partnership with CWV--and the VA in general--in many ways. The partnership is an effective vehicle for delivering women veterans' concerns directly to the entity that can address them," said Basnight. "DAV and CWV engage in important, inclusive conversations about policies that impact women veterans, ensuring that discussions are meaningful and can help effectuate change."
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Author:Edgar, Charity A.
Publication:DAV Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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