I am honored and thrilled to be the new director of the Center for Women Veterans. It’s a tremendously exciting time to take on this new challenge. Recently, the Department of Defense officially opened combat arms jobs and units to women, validating the honorable service of hundreds of thousands of female Servicemembers, who have deployed to theaters of conflict — especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, many of whom have been wounded in combat.
In war or peacetime, their military service must be recognized. As these women leave the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs must be prepared to meet their growing needs and numbers. Women are one of the fastest growing subgroup of Veterans, and they’re signing up for VA health care and benefits at higher rates than ever before.
The Secretary’s vision is to be the No. 1 customer-service agency in the federal government. VA’s MyVA initiative employs transformation strategies that are about achieving that vision – about rebuilding trust with Veterans, their families and survivors, and the American people. The strategies are a concerted approach, leveraging VA’s immense scope and scale so we can give every Veteran an exceptional experience that is easy, consistent, and memorable.
MyVA represents an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that women Veterans are considered during every stage of the transformation. As the principal advisor to the Secretary on Department policies, programs, and legislation that affect women Veterans, representing us during the transformation is one of my top priorities, along with leading the Center for Women Veterans’ mission and activities.
Before coming to VA, I spent over 8 years at the RAND Corporation conducting research and analysis on topics including Servicemember and Veteran health needs and benefits. However, my passion for advocating on behalf of women Veterans—both within and outside VA—is not only professional, but also personal. After serving in the U.S. Army for 5 years, I left active duty to help my husband recover from injuries he sustained in combat. Over the past 11 years, VA has played a tremendous role in helping us transition and reintegrate, providing educational benefits, VA-backed home loans, and health care.
Receiving health care exclusively at the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center, I have recently experienced firsthand the benefit of an integrated health system in which my primary care and specialty care providers all had access to the same medical record, helping to ensure I got evidence-based care. My goal is to ensure that all women Veterans are able to access the same high-quality care and timely benefits that have helped me thrive since becoming a civilian.
I welcome your input and collaboration as I serve our nation in this role, so please visit our Web site often to check for opportunities.
Kayla Williams is the director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans.