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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


Secretary Shinseki Announces Study of Vietnam-Era Women Veterans

November 19, 2009

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Comprehensive Study Will Help VA Provide High-Quality Care

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching a comprehensive study of women Veterans who served in the military during the Vietnam War to explore the effects of their military service upon their mental and physical health.

“One of my top priorities is to meet the needs of women Veterans,” said Secretary Shinseki.  “Our Veterans have earned the very best care.  VA realizes that women Veterans require specialized programs, and this study will help VA provide high-quality care for women Veterans of the Vietnam era.”

The study, which begins in November and lasts more than four years, will contact approximately 10,000 women in a mailed survey, telephone interview and a review of their medical records.  

As women Vietnam Veterans approach their mid-sixties, it is important to understand the impact of wartime deployment on health and mental outcomes nearly 40 years later.  The study will assess the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental and physical health conditions for women Vietnam Veterans, and explore the relationship between PTSD and other conditions. 

VA will study women Vietnam Veterans who may have had direct exposure to traumatic events, and for the first time, study those who served in facilities near Vietnam.  These women may have had similar, but less direct exposures.  Both women Veterans who receive their health care from VA and those who receive health care from other providers will be contacted to determine the prevalence of a variety of health conditions.

About 250,000 women Veterans served in the military during the Vietnam War and about 7,000 were in or near Vietnam.  Those who were in Vietnam, those who served elsewhere in Southeast Asia and those who served in the United States are potential study participants.

The study represents to date the most comprehensive examination of a group of women Vietnam Veterans, and will be used to shape future research on women Veterans in future wars.  Such an understanding will lay the groundwork for planning and providing appropriate services for women Veterans, as well as for the aging Veteran population today.

Women Veterans are one of the fastest growing segments of the Veteran population.  There are approximately 1.8 million women Veterans among the nation’s total of 23 million living Veterans.  Women comprise 7.8 percent of the total Veteran population and nearly 5.5 percent of all Veterans who use VA health care services.  VA estimates women Veterans will constitute 10.5 percent of the Veteran population by 2020 and 9.5 percent of all VA patients.

In recent years, VA has undertaken a number of initiatives to create or enhance services for women Veterans, including the implementation of comprehensive primary care throughout the nation, staffing every VA medical center with a women Veterans program manager, supporting a multifaceted research program on women's health, improving communication and outreach to women Veterans, and continuing the operation of organizations like the Center for Women Veterans and the Women Veterans Health Strategic Healthcare Group.

The study, to be managed by VA’s Cooperative Studies Program, is projected to cost $5.6 million.  

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