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Female Vietnam War Vets Still Suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Veterans Administration recognizes that as the percentage of female active-duty service members rises, there will be a greater need for services sensitive to the needs of female veterans. The stress of combat missions, sexual trauma, isolation and worries about family have produced an estimated 20 percent rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in female veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a problem that the VA must address. However, a recent VA-funded study shows that older female veterans who served in the Vietnam War still suffer from PTSD today and have not received adequate care to address their condition.

Stars and Stripes recently reported that “The Health of Vietnam-Era Women’s Study,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, interviewed more than 4,000 subjects, of whom 1,956 had been stationed in Vietnam. Researchers found that 20 percent experienced PTSD symptoms at some point after the war, and almost 16 percent were suffering from the illness at the time of the study. 

Given that around 6,000 women served in the Vietnam War, the 20 percent figure suggests that about 1,200 female veterans of that conflict may have been suffering from PTSD. However, PTSD is not exclusive to female vets who engaged in combat service; the study recorded a PTSD rate of 11.5 percent for women who served at military bases in Thailand or the Philippines and 14 percent for military women who were stationed in the United States during the Vietnam era. The high rate among Vietnam veterans is undoubtedly exacerbated by the rigors of service in a combat zone, such as having to perform triage on wounded soldiers, in effect deciding who would get life-saving care and who was beyond help. But the fact that female service members stateside experienced a higher incidence of PTSD than those stationed at non-combat bases in Southeast Asia, suggests other causes, such as sexual trauma, may be at the root of the problem.

For too long, the VA has overlooked the needs of female veterans. But as an author of the women’s study told Stars and Stripes, “It is never too late to do the right thing.”

If you are a female veteran and you’ve had your claim for VA benefits denied, the accredited attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban can help. Call us from anywhere in the country at 866-866-VETS or contact our veterans’ benefits law firm online.

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