Women’s Outreach Director Mary Ann Mayer, MSW has been fielding calls from women veterans for several months now. She notes the high incidence of poverty as an issue and a barrier for women vets. To begin with, female veterans have a lower median household income than male veterans, according to a March 2016 report from the VA.
Coming out of the military, women vets lose their community
In the crucial initial transition period, the support of friends who share your experience is a rich resource most women vets don’t have. That can be isolating. In addition, most female vets don’t self-identify as having served. Sometimes it’s because they suffer from MST-induced PTSD, often with combat-related PTSD.
Deployments are hard on relationships, marriages and families
When a woman leaves military service, a lot of change has to happen in a compressed time frame: new location, new job, new housing. A woman veteran can find herself unable to work long hours or hold sustained employment because of PTSD. Being unable to find meaningful employment or child care raises yet another set of circumstances to navigate. So many of these women vets are strong, proven former soldiers who need just a bit of help over a rough patch. When that help doesn’t arrive, they can slip into a steady decline that leads to homelessness and despair.
Mayer feels like she is sometimes the last line of defense for a woman who calls our Lifeline for Vets. “By the time a woman vet calls me, she has typically been out of the service for a number of years, and her life has already spiraled downwards. We are working hard to reach women who are transitioning out of the military, so that we can assist with resources before a spiral happens.”
Trying to locate resources for a woman in a rural part of Minnesota, for example, can be difficult. It takes patience and persistence. “But each time I solve the puzzle,” Mayer says, “we identify another resource to add to what we offer all veterans. We’re helping to weave a larger, stronger safety net.”