On March 24, VA’s Center for Women Veterans (CWV) launched a nationwide women Veterans outreach campaign, announcing the new effort during the women’s history month celebration at VA’s Central Office.
During this special event, held each year to celebrate the contributions of the women who served our nation, VA announced the new campaign to bring awareness to VA’s services offered to women Veterans, reaffirm VA’s commitment to serve women Veterans and to celebrate women’s stories of military service.
The vision for the campaign was born out of the realization that when our women Veterans from all eras and generations surrender the uniform, they retain the intangible—that combination of resolute resilience and the unbeatable skills they will incorporate into their reintegration and readjustment process.
However, VA continues to face persistent challenges, including women Veterans who do not self-identify, thereby preventing them from accessing the benefits they have rightfully earned. VA further recognizes, along with a number of our Veterans service organization partners, that there remain gaps in serving the unique needs of women Veterans. Through this campaign, CWV will be engaged in going to these women Veterans to raise the awareness of VA’s commitment to them, and to facilitate the conversation around what more needs to be done.
The last key driver for this campaign is the need to expand upon the Center for Women Veterans’ congressional mandate to serve as an advocate for a cultural transformation (both within VA and the general public), in recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military. This is why it is so important that we celebrate our women Veterans’ stories.
The event’s distinguished speaker, U.S. Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations – currently the highest ranking woman in the entire military – noted the importance of discussing women Veterans’ contributions to military service in making the public more knowledgeable and appreciative of their service.The women Veterans campaign will open discussion on women Veterans’ issues and transform the perception of their service.
In a panel consisting of Under Secretary of Benefits Allison A. Hickey, Chief Consultant for Women’s Health Services Dr. Patricia Hayes and Deputy Under Secretary for Finance and National Cemetery Administration Planning/Chief Financial Officer Matthew Sullivan, each briefly discussed his or her administration’s motivation and participation in this collaborative campaign.
In the coming months, you will hear of campaign events being conducted in VA’s five regional locations. With the support of the campaign’s major sponsor, the Veterans Canteen Service, we are excited to host one-day events in Washington, DC, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., Houston, Texas, Bay Pines/St. Petersburg, Fla., and Los Angeles, Calif. There will also be opportunities to expand this celebration beyond these locations, to other facilities and communities. Internal and external stakeholders’ participation will provide an invaluable contribution – including, but not limited to VSOs, academic institutions, public/private partners and community leaders/organizations. We need everyone’s help to reach all of our women Veterans.
Elisa Basnight, Esq., was appointed director of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Women Veterans in October 2013. In this role, she is the primary advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on programs and issues related to women Veterans. She is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy – West Point, and a former Army intelligence officer.