WASHINGTON – When she returned from Iraq in 2005,Army veteran Shannon Morgan might have benefited from a bill that was introduced Tuesday.
The bill would improve post traumatic stress disorder treatment for female veterans. Morgan,27,of Mena,Ark.,who repaired tracked vehicles,needed counseling and went to a Veterans Affairs Department therapist.
“He basically said,‘There is no way you were in combat – you are a female,'” she said. “The nightmares and flashbacks and things like that,that's what I needed help with. I needed to get myself on medication. I was a total wreck and driving my parents crazy.”
Sen. Patty Murray,D-Wash.,introduced the bill,which would require counseling,improve women's health care programs and provide a pilot program for child care services.
Morgan said she sought help from another Veterans Affairs clinic,where one of an increasing number of female therapists helped her.
“I don't know what to say. It's hard to ask for help to begin with and open yourself up to someone on that level,” she said. “For them to reject me like that – it astonished me more than anything.”
Murray said the there are approximately 1.8 million female veterans who,according to VA data,are receiving “lower quality care” than men receive.
“They fought right alongside their male counterparts in some of the most serious battles during the height of the insurgency in Iraq,” Murray said. “When they came home,they faced the daunting challenge of being among the very first female combat veterans.”
The bill,which also has a House version,would improve existing programs for women who were sexually attacked or harassed,which Murray said affects 22 percent of female veterans. They are also likely to be thrust into a care-giving role,child birth or are less likely to have their military service recognized.
“There is definitely a need for more women therapists in the VA,” Morgan said. “It's kind of hard when you go in and speak to a male therapist and he can't even fathom the fact that women are in combat. If you don't believe me,then how are you going to help me?”
Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin,D-S.D.,the sponsor of the House version of the bill,said in a statement the bill would equip the VA with the tools it needs for the rising number of female veterans,an estimated 4 million.