As anyone in healthcare will tell you, the U.S. government has an interesting sense of timing. A day after the Pentagon announces it plans to end its ban on women in frontline combat, the VA announces that it has awarded grants to VA facilities that are launching women’s health projects, including establishing telehealth services for female veterans living in rural areas. Coincidence, or well-timed marketing/public relations strategy?
According to the VA’s press release announcing the grants, “Women serve in every branch of the military, representing 15 percent of today’s active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. By 2020, VA estimates women Veterans will constitute 10 percent of the Veteran population.”
No mention was made in the release, of course, of the 237,000 jobs that will be available to women in the armed forces now that the combat ban has been lifted. I wonder if that 10-percent figure might jump a little once 2016 rolls around and arguments amongst government agencies regarding combat roles that should remain closed to women are laid to rest.
Telehealth grants were awarded to 10 facilities, and, according to the VA, will be used to provide services including tele-mental health, tele-gynecology, tele-pharmacy and telephone maternity care coordination.
While I applaud Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki’s statement that “[t]hese new projects will improve access and quality of critical health care services for women,” I’m not quite sure where I stand on the underlying issue – why aren’t female veterans already given 100 percent access to care at VA facilities, and why does the government seem to be planning for an increased need for healthcare services? But that speaks to a bigger problem that is probably best addressed elsewhere.