VA Health Care For Women:

Progress Made in Providing Services to Women Veterans

HEHS-99-38: Published: Jan 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 1999.

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Stephen P. Backhus
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) health care program for women, focusing on: (1) the progress VA made in removing barriers that may prevent women veterans from obtaining VA health care services; and (2) the extent to which VA health care services, particularly gender-specific services, are available to and used by women veterans.

GAO noted that: (1) VA has made considerable progress in removing barriers that prevent women veterans from obtaining care; (2) VA has increased outreach to women veterans to inform them of their eligibility for health care services and designated women veterans coordinators to assist women veterans in accessing VA's health care system; (3) VA has also improved the health care environment in many of its medical facilities, especially with respect to accommodating the privacy needs of women veterans; (4) however, VA recognizes that it has more working these areas and plans to address concerns about the effectiveness of its outreach efforts and privacy barriers that still exist in some facilities; (5) in response to women veterans' concerns, VA has begun to assess its capacity to women veterans; (6) with regard to gender-specific services, VA's efforts to emphasize women veterans' health care have contributed to a significant increas of all services over the last 3 years; (7) the range of services differs by facility; services may be provided in clinics designated specifically for women veterans, or they may be provided in the overall medical facility health care system; (8) more importantly, utilization has increased significantly between 1994 and 1997; (9) for example, gender-specific services grew from over 85,000 to more than 121,000; and (10) during the same time period, the number of women veterans treated for all health care services on an outpatient basis increased by about 32 percent or 119,300.

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