Editor’s note: Burnt Orange Report is honored to publish this guest column by Sen. Sylvia Garcia. Elected in 2013, Sen. Garcia represents Harris County (part) in the Texas Senate and is a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Military Installations.
On this Veteran’s Day, as we thank those who answered their country’s call at great personal cost, I want to specifically recognize a growing group of veterans, women veterans. Despite women veterans’ equal sacrifices in the name of serving our county, when they arrive home, these women are often not afforded the same care and given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Women have unique challenges when returning to civilian life, and more must be done to address these needs and to provide the level of services they have earned by serving in the armed forces.
With the largest population of women veterans in the United States, Texas should lead the way in providing care and services to ensure these women are able to fully utilize their potential. Our goal should not be simple reintegration, but success in all facets of life. Women are innovators, women are leaders, and we must ensure that there are no artificial barriers in the way of these women from utilizing their skills here at home.
There are a few key areas where we are failing our women veterans that I know we can fix if we simply take common-sense steps to address our shortfalls. First and foremost, veterans have earned medical care, yet one in three VA medical centers do not have a gynecologist on staff. How are women supposed to receive adequate care when such a basic component of women’s health is not provided? Further, while male veterans have a lower rate of unemployment than non-veteran men, women veterans are more likely than their non-veteran counterparts to be unemployed. And tragically, one in four women veterans have suffered from military sexual trauma, as compared to only one in 100 male veterans.
Fortunately, these issues are no longer being ignored. Just this past session, I sponsored, and the Legislature passed a bill that created the Texas Women Veterans Program, with a mission that the women veterans of this state have equitable access to state and federal veterans’ benefits and services. It is my belief that measures such as this and similar measures at the federal level are finally recognizing that more needs to be done for our women veterans. These actions have called attention to the fact that women and men have different needs when returning home, and initial steps are being taken to ensure every veteran, whether they be a man or woman is provided with the services he or she may need.
Veteran’s Day is about honoring sacrifice and recognizing those brave men and women who have selflessly placed country over themselves. Our commitment to these veterans cannot start and end on this Veteran’s Day, but must be a continuing effort every day. So today I want to thank each and every veteran for the sacrifice you have made and continue to make for this country, but tomorrow, and every day forward, we will all do everything we can to ensure each and every one of you, man or women, is shown the level of appreciation you have earned in service to this nation we all love.