Tuesday, June 25, 2024

VA data shows unique health challenges for female veterans: ‘It’s taxing for quite a lot of women’

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) — In time for National Women’s Health Week, women in Cumberland County’s military community are opening up about their health challenges as veterans.

Those challenges are getting a bigger spotlight as more women join the armed forces.

Tamu Brown of Fayetteville told ABC11 that after seven years in the Army in the early 1990s, she learned she had to be more attentive to her health after a major diagnosis at 19.

“I have rheumatoid arthritis. So that autoimmune disease, of course, attacks my joints. And in other parts of my body, I’ve had my knee replaced. I’ve had four shoulder surgeries and I’m scared to have my other knee replacement at the end of the year,” Brown said.

Now 52, Brown said she has had good doctors at the VA through the years but wishes she’d had more consistent care. VA data shows Brown isn’t alone in her health challenges as more women are joining the military. It reports that women made up 30% of the increase of servicemembers from 2014 to 2018. It says challenges in accessing care, as well as issues like sexual trauma, mental health problems, eating disorders and exposure to dangerous substances, continue to affect female veterans.

“I constantly hear it in our chapter,” Brown said. “We hear it, we hear it on the street. We see it. And the woman who’s on the corner and she’s a veteran and she’s homeless and she’s asking for help.”

Brown is now a therapist and the president of the Fayetteville chapter of Women Veterans Interactive. She said her fellow female veterans frequently confide in one another about their health issues. Reflecting on her experience and those of the women in her chapter, Brown urges women in the service to advocate for themselves.

“It compounds in a woman veteran. It’s not just one. The intersectionality of it all is, frankly, taxing for quite a lot of women,” she said.

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