During the month of April, the Center for Women Veterans is highlighting, “Women Veterans with Disabilities are Valued.” The purpose is to raise national awareness of the contributions of women Veterans with disabilities and to tell their story of resilience. Though not always easy, these women Veterans demonstrate that they WILL NOT allow their disability to prevent them from living their best life. Our goal is to increase awareness of women Veterans, in both VA and in the public, and to encourage women Veterans to choose VA for their total body wellness.
Claudia Baldwin is an immigrant from El Salvador who migrated at age 7 to the United States, for better opportunities. She decided to join the U. S. Air Force in 1995 to serve this wonderful country, preserve the right of freedom, and to obtain education benefits. Claudia achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant; however, at 24, a rare disorder took her sight and led to her medical retirement from the Air Force.
Despite becoming blind, she went back to work, and completed her Bachelor of Science in Management degree. She is currently the Chief of Veteran Services for Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), where she diligently helps hundreds of blind veterans receive their VA benefits. She is the proud mother of her only daughter, Claudia. She loves dancing with her husband James, and always has a sense of adventure. She loves to alpine ski, surf, row, and is always looking to experience something new in life. One of her favorite quotes is from her Friend, Army veteran, former Paralympian, Joel Hunt, who said, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do!”
Heather Osborne served in U. S., Marine Corps as a Warehouse Supply Clerk. She joined the military to escape the poverty surrounding her. In the corps, she acquired a work ethic that has driven her to work relentlessly to help service members and Veterans. Heather is a Senior Analyst with the Benefits Assistance Service Outreach Team and assists with contracting for Transition and Economic Development.
She enjoys baking with her son because of the joy it gives her teaching and helping him. She encourages women Veterans to not allow their disabilities to define who they are. People along her journey told her that her profound hearing loss would hold her back, but she didn’t give their words any credence and continued to push even harder. She wants women Veterans to stand-up and continue the good fight, recognizing that your disabilities cannot not be your limitation. Her favorite quote is, “We are dealing with Veterans, not procedures – with their problems, not ours” – Omar Bradley (1947). This quote reminds her to maintain focus on the humanity of what VA does and to keep Veterans at the center of our mission.