As part of VA’s goal to implement improvements to its health care for women Veterans, we recently launched our new Women Veterans hotline—1-855-VA-WOMEN (829-6636)—an incoming call center that receives and responds to questions from women Veterans, their families, and caregivers across the nation about available VA services and resources.
Over the past decade, the number of women using VA health care has more than doubled, from nearly 160,000 to more than 360,000 in 2012. Women now make up 15 percent of active duty and 18 percent of Guard/Reserves service members. Based on the upward trend of women in all branches of service, the number of women Veterans and female VA users is expected to double again in the next decade.
While the number of women VA users continues to grow, women comprise only six percent of VA’s total patient population. We have found that women Veterans underutilize VA care, largely due to a lack of knowledge about VA benefits and available services. In response, we established an outbound Call Center in 2010 to contact women Veterans and encourage them to try VA care. This service has been expanded, and telephone agents now receive incoming calls and inquiries about VA care and other services for women.
“The Women Veterans Call Center is aimed at increasing women Veterans’ knowledge of all VA services and benefits that they deserve,” said Krista Stephenson, an Army Veteran and our current Women Veterans Call Center Director.
All our telephone agents have received training regarding services that the VA provides for women Veterans. They are informed about eligibility, benefits, health care and other services, and can route calls within VA when needed. These trained VA employees can also respond to crisis situations such as suicidal behavior, homelessness, sexual trauma, and domestic violence.
1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) provides a single avenue for women Veterans to get the help they need.
“They just have the one number to call and our telephone agents will be able to direct them appropriately and to provide them the information that they need,” said Stephenson. “We also have established agreements for warm handoffs to VA programs such as the Veterans Crisis Line and the Caregiver Support Line. We are also working collaboratively with other VA Departments for those Veterans who have questions regarding VA benefits and health eligibility.”
In cases where the Call Center transfer callers to other VA offices, our telephone agents are instructed to follow-up within 30 days to ensure that women Veterans received the services they needed. This is just one way that we ensure our beneficiaries do not fall through the cracks.
We hope to meet the unique needs of women Veterans by delivering the highest quality of health care to each woman, while offering privacy, dignity, and sensitivity to gender-specific needs. VA provides a full continuum of care, including comprehensive primary care, mental health services, as well as emergency and specialty care. In addition, VA provides gynecology services, maternity care, caregiver support, crisis support and help for homeless Veterans. With one phone call, women Veterans can discover all the VA has to offer. For more information, please click here.
Patricia M. Hayes is the Chief Consultant for Women’s Health Services (WHS) for VA, advocating for and overseeing the delivery of VA health care services for more than 360,000 women Veteran health care users.