Texas VA focuses on Women Veterans during special town hall


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 HARLINGEN, Texas —VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) recently hosted a Women Veterans Town Hall on November 14, 2018 at the VA Health Care Center (HCC) at Harlingen, Texas.

Although specifically tailored for Women Veterans, the town hall was also one of several events VCB held in observance of National Veterans and Military Families Month.

More than 30 people attended the hour-long, free, public event.

According to Kathleen Libke the Women Veterans Program manager for VCB, Town halls like the one at HCC are designed to provide Women Veterans with an opportunity to voice their opinions, find out what’s new in Women’s Health and what’s new in the health care system.

Former soldier, Maricela Alvarado, registers during the Women Veterans Town Hall held November 14, 2018, at the VA Health Care Center at Harlingen, Texas. Alvarado was one of dozen Women Veterans who attended the hour-long free public event.

Former soldier, Maricela Alvarado, registers during the Women Veterans Town Hall held November 14, 2018, at the VA Health Care Center at Harlingen, Texas. Alvarado was one of dozen Women Veterans who attended the hour-long free public event. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs photo by Luis H. Loza Gutierrez)

The event received positive remarks from several of those in attendance.

“I think events like this town hall are a sign that the VA is trying to be more welcoming to Women Veterans,” said Maricela Alvarado, an Army Veteran who heard about the town hall in an article by the Valley Morning Star. “Events like these are also important because Texas has more Women Veterans than any other state in the country, so organizations like the VA have little to no choice, but to finally listen to our need because it is about time.”

According to National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (NCVAS), and a 2018 Women Veterans report by the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC), Texas has the largest Women Veteran population in the country with 181,402, a figure which continues to grow.

Additionally, data shows that Women Veterans are the fastest growing segment of the Veteran community. In 2015, 2.1 million (or 11 percent) of the nation’s approximately 22 million Veterans were women. This number is projected to increase to 2.4 million by 2020.

“Equitable access to federal and state Veterans’ benefits and services is needed for the Women Veterans who live in the Lone Star State, said Libke.  “Additionally, there is a need to educate and inform Women Veterans of their benefits and services and advocate on their behalf.”

Items like the Women's Self-Care Guide pictured here were among the educational materials and items given inside free bags of goodies to guests during Women Veterans Town Hall.

Items like the Women’s Self-Care Guide pictured here were among the educational materials and items given inside free bags of goodies to guests during Women Veterans Town Hall held November 14, 2018, at the VA Health Care Center at Harlingen, Texas. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs photo by Luis H. Loza Gutierrez)

Libke used the town hall to serve as an opportunity to inform guests about VCB’s plans to create the Women Veterans Advisory Committee, in order to help address such great needs.

According to Libke, the special committee will be led by a board that will report to the director of VCB.

According to Libke, the fact that the board will have the direct access to the top person in our local VA health care system, means Women Veterans from the committee will have a great opportunity to provide valuable input that may help develop, implement and influence VA health policy and VA education initiatives.

Libke stated during the town hall that in addition to a commitment of time and direct reporting to the director of VCB, plans for the Women Veterans Advisory Committee call for the committee be completely voluntary.

“We want to hear what your concerns are,” said Libke, “We want to know what you, as a female Veteran, want from your health care system, but we need your help.”

Female Veterans interested in forming part of the committee can contact Women Veterans Program for more information by dialing 956-291-9613 or sending an e-mail message to Kathleen.libke@va.gov .

(At right) Kathleen Libke the Women Veterans Program manager for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) delivers a PowerPoint presentation during the Women Veterans Town Hall.

(At right) Kathleen Libke the Women Veterans Program manager for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB) delivers a PowerPoint presentation during the Women Veterans Town Hall held November 14, 2018, at the VA Health Care Center at Harlingen, Texas. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs photo by Luis H. Loza Gutierrez)

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AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Did you know that women are the fastest growing group within the Veteran population? Learn more about the changing face of women Veterans and what VA is doing to meet their health care needs by visiting https://www.womenshealth.va.gov/ .

Author

Luis Loza Gutierrez

Luis H. Loza Gutierrez joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in October of 2017 and serves as a public affairs specialist for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System.

In addition to winning multiple awards as a writer, photographer, illustrator and graphic artist during his more than 10 years in the U.S. Air Force as a public affairs specialist and photojournalist, L.G. (as he was called by his fellow Airmen) also served as a member for the Air Force Honor Guard at the base-level during his last permanent-duty station in North Dakota.

He volunteered to deploy out of cycle twice in a period of less 18 months, the second of which included a six-month tour as a member of the public affairs team at USF-I Headquarters at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

The now retired non-commissioned officer returned home to the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas in November of 2015, and feels enthusiastic and honored to continue to serve his fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms as a member of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.