VA employee empowers her women Veteran peers


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VA’s Center for Women Veterans is advancing a cultural transformation throughout VA and aims to serve as a portal – monitoring and coordinating VA’s benefit services, outreach and programs – for women Veterans. One advocate is Ashley Gorbulja-Maldonado, a VBA employee and Army National Guard Veteran, who empowers other women Veterans with her mantra, “I can, I will… watch me.”

While Gorbulja-Maldonado found a purpose raising money for homeless women Veterans and their children by participating in Ms. Veteran American, advocating for business resources through Veterati, working with the American Legion, and presenting at workshops and conferences and more, she’s also worked to get her own women Veteran peers to actively engage with VA’s Women’s Health Services, the Center for Women Veterans, and the Office of Suicide Prevention.

Since the suicide rate for women Veterans is approximately twice that of non-Veteran women, and recent studies have shown the rate of suicide to be higher among women who report having experienced military sexual trauma (MST), Gorbulja-Maldonado’s mantra stresses setting the example for others to follow – including coming to VA.

“For women feeling alone, I want them to remember that their feelings are just as important as their male counterparts, and that there are many people and resources who are there for them,” she said.

VA has enhanced the provision of care to staffing Women’s Health Primary Care Providers (WH-PCP) at every site of VA care. VA has implemented care delivery models that ensure women Veterans receive equitable, timely, high-quality primary health care from a single primary care provider.

“We know that national VA satisfaction and quality data indicate women who are assigned to a Women’s Health Primary Care Provider have higher satisfaction and higher quality of gender-specific care than those assigned to other providers,” said Dr. Patricia Hayes, VA Chief Consultant for Women’s Health Services. “And they are twice as likely to choose to stay in VA care over time. That is why we are concentrating our efforts on training staff and actively recruiting additional providers with experience in women’s health care.

Dr. Lisa Kearney, Acting Deputy Director of VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, says that women Veterans have choices with their health care. They can choose a provider’s gender, gender-sensitive treatment options, women-specific residential treatment programs, and more.

“Women Veterans are encouraged to voice their request,” Kearney said. “We empower them to voice their concerns, talk with their mental health champions and state what they need so they are heard.”

“Remember, the VA is your home,” Hayes-Byrd added. “You earned it and you deserve it, so use it!”

Women Veterans can connect with VA services by calling or texting the Women Veteran Call Center at 855-VA-Women (855-829-6636).


Angela Abel is a Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Counselor and a VetSuccess on Campus Counselor.

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Comments

  1. Anita Kay McCormick    

    I have utilized no less than 6 VA Medical Centers and 2 outreach clinics in the 30 years I have been a disabled veteran. I have received care in Chicago IL, Joliet IL, Indianapolis IN, Philadelphia PA, Scranton PA, Tampa FL. I have been hospitalized three times in a VAMC. I have had a few horrible experiences, but overall I have had great care with the doctors and staff.

    The times I didn’t feel I was getting the care I needed, I just kept pushing until I got it. Sometimes it took a lot of effort on my part and I went up the “chain of command” when I needed to. Utilize the veteran advocates!!! They were a huge help even when it seemed like I would get nowhere with the doctors. It took time, but eventually I got the care I needed. Took about 6 years to get a dx for a secondary condition related to medication I had to take for my primary condition. But my most recent primary doctor listened to me and she never gave up. As a last chance she sent me to a rheumatologist who took me seriously and after 30 minutes of actually listening, he “knew” what was wrong and wanted to run a few tests first. He was right and got me the treatment to help me. I was one step from a wheelchair, and with 3 years of physical therapy, I am walking without any aides 85% of the time. I get relapses when I have to take the medication that caused my condition (unavoidable as the medication is so I can breathe when I get a respiratory infection), or I over do things too much and then I need the walker or cane for a few days to recover.

    You have to find the doctors that work for you! You can change doctors. In Chicago, my pulmonologist was my advocate. He even went to the ER and chewed them out when I went to ER with breathing issues and they sent me home saying it wasn’t my medical condition but just bronchitis, and not admitting me and calling him. With that occurrence, he gave me his cell and home phone #s. I used those #s many times from then on in the 12 years before my move out of state. I never abused using those #s, I would only call as the last resort. Only downside was that I didn’t go to my primary doctor for anything for over 5 years and finally it was go see primary or no medications, LOL. No big deal.

    When I moved to PA 9 years ago, I had 4 primary doctors in the first two years before the Women’s Clinic opened up and I switched to them. My current primary doctor is great and she fights for me to get the care I need every time. She never hesitates to send me to a specialist. She isn’t shy about admitting when she isn’t sure of something and gets me a 2nd opinion. She never ever lets me leave from my appointments until all my questions, concerns are addressed. She takes the time and never rushes. I am usually in my appointments with her for no less than 30 minutes.

  2. Rosa Valencia    

    I agree with all of you… Immediately upon reading this I thought “what a bunch of lie”. I have never been catered to by any VA, I get told I have to prove I have a disease when its a doctors job to diagnose me. I travel hours only to get seen up to 2 hours late. The VA has no respect for time, my job, or my life! Join me on my FB group Problems with the VA all we can do is come together and hope we can make a difference with numbers.

  3. HM3 Soliz    

    Some of us veterans don’t have the luxury of living in small towns that can cater to veterans. The VA hospital always acts concerned and makes you feel like they care, but really your just a number. They don’t want to write anything in your medical record about your service connection or help you in that area. They don’t want to diagnose you with any issue just send you for years and years of testing. They say we need to get homeless veterans off the street, but as a homeless veteran, I was denied a VASH-Voucher, because I knew to go to the hospital to get my care and was told it was only for veterans in need of intensive care needs; those with severe substance abuse or mental health issues. Everything I’ve read does not say a veteran who is homeless seeking assistance has to be in “intensive need”. If they need that much care, they are going to need time to get them to a point that they can live in an apartment complex on their own with a voucher. Leaving unused vouchers for some that could move into an apartment with a voucher. I’m glad they are getting help for these veterans, but it has to be ALL veterans asking for assistance. I told 3 doctors I was homeless and none helped. When I did find a doctor, they shut her down when she appealed my denial of a voucher. She read the articles for acquiring a voucher and none read the way they are stating. Now you know why LA has so many homeless veterans, because not all of us meet those requirements. I finally got assistance through other means, but what happens when those run out? I have to go back to the streets because nothing is affordable to veterans out here on disability income. Those veterans that get great care be thankful, but advocate for some of us that don’t. Everyone’s town is going to be different, but all veterans are the same. We ALL deserve much better care, allowed to go to any medical facility that is non-VA, not drive 4 hours for a procedure because it’s the closest, and be respected for the jobs we all did, which protected these people who look down upon us. This is how our country repays it’s veterans for keeping them safe? If someone saved my life I would be forever grateful, which I am to every single veteran, no matter what their orientation is or job title in the service. Someone had to do the job and it was us that did it! Respect all veterans!

  4. Earlene Brittingham    

    Omaha Nebraska treats females like criminals; the facility is filthy, I hope this new focus on Women’s Services will help us out.

  5. sandra young    

    needless to say we veterans feel truly neglected when we are in need. whether it be near a major hospital or not. what we need is veterans services that will allow us to present ourselves at any hospital near us. We need to fall under the veterans administration/medicare and that way we can find our doctors we need and the care we need. this business the veterans administration only is outrageous and pass dated. hewn we need a second opinion we don’t need a doctor who is first thinking of his obligation to the VA and not to the veteran. we travel for hours to get to the veterans administration hospital because they still see us as soldiers and we need to accept and shut up, not to be able to accept the open panoply of benefits open to the world of the sick but only what the VA is willing to provide. we are behind our own needs and the we need to service us. we must wake up and find the VA group that supports our needs. we are still human beings and not just veterans and our needs are the same as all human beings. we cannot be lock in veteran homes and neglected to die. younger vets are obliged to demand the best for all who served and not just accept that 60,000 or more have died in pathetic conditions in recent weeks because of the Corona virus. I am ashamed as a veteran and if you are not then ask yourself what do you deserve….

  6. Ruth Valeska    

    It’s the same here in Nevada. A lot of talk, but I’ve never felt welcome at my VA Healthcare center.

  7. Shelly Klukas    

    I am sorry SW. I have the opposite experience in NW WI. Although small, which I don’t mind my Dr. at my medical center is Very friendly and helpful. Always return my call, willing to refer me out when needed. I do need to travel to the bigger faculty for some procedures but this to be expected. My Dr. is VERY attentive and not at all afraid to send me to the specialist. He goes over my meds with me ever 6 months. If I have a question about a med he looks it up and goes over the pros and cons. There have been bumps in road and things haven’t been perfect but overall I couldn’t ask for a better group of caring, professional staff who I feel care about my over all well being. I also feel I need to do my part. Show on time for appointments, be respectful. Call if I can’t make it. I hate to hear when people have bad experiences!

  8. S W    

    What a crock of lies! Maybe these women need to come to the Togus VA Medical Center up here in Maine. We have women providers in the pain clinic who condone through their actions the good old boys network which is Togus. Women veterans are NOT treated equitably with their male counterparts.

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