Women are serving in all branches of the military including the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. They currently comprise 15% of active duty members and 18% of reserves and guards and the numbers are increasing. Since the 2013 ban on women serving in combat was removed, the roles for women have expanded and they now serve as gunners, police, pilots, truck drivers, and fuel suppliers. These expanded roles, coupled with the lack of defined front lines of conflict, have exposed women to intense combat situations. Like their male colleagues, they are exposed to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), and mortars. Changes in daily operations mean military women are carrying more equipment and gear while performing increased physical activities such as walking, running, jumping, loading, and driving which puts them at higher risk of musculoskeletal injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. Their health is impacted by extreme temperatures, inadequate facilities, hygiene issues, and sporadic gender-specific health care. Women are at increased risk for military sexual trauma (MST); VA’s national screening program reveals that about 1 in 4 women report experiencing MST compared to 1 in 100 men. Women are 30% more likely to have PTSD, four times more likely to have substance abuse disorder, and nearly 3 times more likely to be unemployed. These are just a few of the issues that need to be addressed for this growing Veteran population. We will explore common issues regarding health care for OEF/OIF/OND women Veterans including post-deployment stressors, physical and mental health risk factors, common health conditions, and methods to facilitate mental and physical health care.
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