CINCINNATI -- The first image that pops into many people's minds of a veteran is that of a man, but the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has found the number of female veterans is rising faster than the system can handle.
Women Veteran's: The Journey Ahead, a new DAV report, found women make up almost 20 percent of all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard armed forces and about 10 percent of all veterans in the U.S.
When asked if she feels equal to her male-counterparts though, Women Veteran's Program Manager and Army veteran Shirley May says no. "For the most part women in their military service are somewhat marginalized."
This feeling stems from the unique challenges female veterans face while transitioning to civilian life that male veterans don't. And Joy Ilem, DAV’s national legislative director, says female veterans face unique issues when reintegrating into society.
"What we found when women veterans come back, especially from war time deployments," said Illem, "they are usually reintegrating into the home if they're married, trying to reintegrate with their children."
Reintegration with their children can often place more stress on female veterans than male veterans because women are expected to take on the maternal needs of their children upon returning.
Suicide rates for female veterans are also 2.5 times higher than female civilians, even though female veterans are more likely to use VA mental health services more intensively for a wider range of issues than male veterans.
While DAV lists the many issues female veterans face upon returning from their service, the report also lists recommendations for the issues, but the organization recognizes there is still a lot of work to do for women.
"Although progress has been made in recent years," said Ilem, "there remain longstanding, systemic barriers preventing many women from accessing the healthcare and benefits they have earned through their military service.”
Listen to this episode of WCPO's 'Homefront' podcast in the audio player above to hear more information on the issues facing female veterans.