Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Group focuses on women veterans’ health care options

On Jan. 24, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted a longstanding ban on women serving in combat positions. This decision will allow women in the military’s front line positions alongside their male counterparts. Now, as female soldiers come back from the front lines, the question of their health care has come to the attention of The American Legion, a veteran’s organization.

The American Legion will host a town hall meeting in Tuscaloosa as part of their series “The System Worth Saving.” The series started in 2003 and partners with the Veteran Affairs system to make sure veterans receive proper care and treatment. The theme of the series for 2013 focuses on women veterans.

“Women are making up a larger and larger proportion of the Armed Forces,” said Marty Callaghan, a spokesman for The American Legion. “VA has been traditionally an operation system that was essentially for men.”

Callaghan said she estimated women comprise about 15 percent of active Armed Forces and are now returning to the United States with the same traumatic injuries seen mostly in men in years past.

“We’re holding these town hall meetings to hear from women veterans themselves,” Callaghan said.

The day after the town hall meeting, the American Legion will visit the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center and visit with staff and patients.

Donna Jones, a resident of Clanton, Ala., served in the U.S. Army from 1984-1987 as a supply clerk. While Jones served in peace time, she said she believed the health services available to women were acceptable.

“I feel like women were treated fairly and with respect – we had to be able to do the same things men did,” Jones said. “I am sure back then women would not have been deployed as much as they are today [or be] in the same positions that women are today.”

Jones said despite the Armed Forces’ attention to women veterans in recent years, she does not believe the overall culture toward women will change following the lifting of the ban.

“If a female can pass the physical criteria there should be no reason for them to be excluded from combat operations,” Jones said. “The real problem is getting the male soldiers to overcome the traditional ‘men take care of the women’ and ‘women are inferior to men in their physical abilities and psychology.’”

Roscoe Butler, a National Field Service Representative for the American Legion, said attention to women’s health care in the VA system is improving.

“VA has established a champion (a woman veteran program manager) at each VA medical facility,” Butler said. “And that person’s primary role is to dedicate in meeting the needs of women’s veterans.”

Butler said women are just as susceptible as men to conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injuries and military sexual trauma.

“The American Legion is adding more emphasis on quality and care of services VA provides and are offered to women veterans,” Butler said. “We encourage women veterans to come out and share their concerns or challenges or experiences they’ve had at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center, whether good or bad.”

When The American Legion leaves Tuscaloosa, the organization will compile a report of the veterans’ experiences with the health care system. The report will then be distributed to the White House and members of Congress in hopes of change.

“VA in general is a great health system, but there’s always room for improvement,” Callaghan said.

The Tuscaloosa town hall meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 18 at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center in Building 4. For more information, visit

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