In the midst of the controversy surrounding recent revelations regarding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ long wait times for medical care, another problem has surfaced: The organization is falling short of its commitment to provide adequate medical care for its female veterans.
While most female veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are of childbearing age, it has become clear that the VA is not equipped to handle female-specific health concerns. Last year, about 390,000 women visited VA hospitals and clinics — but many of them did not receive adequate care.
According to VA interviews and reports, approximately one of every four VA hospitals does not have a full-time gynecologist on its medical staff. Of the 920 veterans’ clinics located in rural areas, approximately 140 do not have an assigned women’s health provider. When those clinics refer female veterans to nearby medical facilities for breast cancer screenings, it is VA policy to provide the results to patients within two weeks. However, clinics do not meet this deadline more than 50 percent of the time.
Female veterans also experience longer appointment wait times than male veterans and are put on the agency’s electronic wait list more frequently. In addition, female veterans of childbearing age are more often prescribed medications that could lead to birth defects than women who are treated through private HMOs.
According to the VA, much of the problem stems from the fact that the number of women requiring care has skyrocketed in recent years — more than doubling since 2000 — and the system has struggled to keep up. Agency officials stated that the VA has established goals to have women’s healthcare providers in every facility and to address issues with recordkeeping and prescription warnings.
If you are a veteran who has been denied care or benefits owed to you, you may be able to take legal action. Contact an experienced veterans benefits attorney right away to learn more.
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