You may be surprised to hear that women who served in the military are the nation’s fastest growing veteran population, according to Military Times. There are nearly 2 million female veterans in the United States and more than 46,000 of them currently live in Michigan.
Many studies have shown women transitioning from active duty to civilian life often feel as if they are invisible. In many cases they do not get the “hero’s welcome” that their male counterparts receive.
The Ingham County Department of Veterans Affairs is working to aid women veterans who might be having transition issues. The Women’s Veterans Group was established two years ago and meets regularly to addresses issues – often health-related – affecting women who served in the armed forces.
“The Ingham County Women’s Veterans Group was established Sept. 28, 2018,” said 1st Lt. Natrenah G. Blackstock, Veteran Affairs director at the Ingham County Department of Veteran Affairs. “Since that date, we have worked diligently, advocating for female veterans and their families, raising national awareness; promoting legislative action; and leading to changes in the areas of health care, employment, education and homelessness.”
Blackstock said the process of transitioning from active duty is not a one-size-fits-all situation. That especially applies to women.
“In my opinion, the issue that affects women who served that is distinctly different from our male counterparts are cultural biases, both within and outside of the military,” Blackstock explained. “These biases often cause women veterans to disenfranchise as a group, and often times not identify with being a veteran. Ending cultural biases is a collaborative effort between Ingham County Department of Veterans Affairs and our key stakeholders within the community.”
The Women’s Veterans Group meets on a quarterly basis, and often the discussion focuses on health issues and other challenges female veterans face.
“To date, the Ingham County Women’s Veterans Group has played a major role in shaping the outcome of many important issues effecting women in service,” Blackstone said. “We have honored the service of women veterans by discussing diversity, resilience and the need for continued care of women veterans through our coverage of (important) topics.”
In December 2018 the focus was on women with disabilities. Military sexual trauma was discussed in March 2019. In June 2019 the discussion focused on LGBTQ concerns.
In September 2019 the discussion concerned homelessness and women veterans, and a general discussion meeting took place on Dec. 13.
In 2020, meetings are planned for March 6, June 5, Sept. 4 and Dec 18. Topics for those meetings have not been determined. All meetings are held at 5303 S. Cedar St. in Lansing, in Conference Rooms D & E from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Blackstock for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.