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Women veterans with disabilities

portrait of a decorated female marine and her proud mother

Women soldiers play a vital role in our nation's military. As more and more women join and leave the armed forces, the number of women veterans grows. In 2020, an estimated 1.9 million veterans will be women. Some of these women veterans will have disabling conditions that result from their military service.

Women who are wounded in action might suffer amputation, traumatic brain injury, or other debilitating conditions that need rehabilitation. Many more will likely have mental health needs. In 2006 and 2007, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression were among the three most diagnosed conditions for women veterans using Veteran's Administration (VA) health care.

Serving in a combat unit also is extremely stressful. For one, soldiers face the risk of death or life-changing injury. Being shot at, seeing others get hurt or killed, and perhaps needing to wound or kill others are sources of combat stress. Long-term separation from loved ones and family also can be a source of stress.

Women soldiers also are at high risk of military sexual trauma (MST). MST is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs in the military. In fact, 23 in 100 women using VA health care reported sexual assault in the military. And 55 in 100 women reported sexual harassment. MST can affect a woman's mental and physical health, even many years later.

Stress reactions that contribute to PTSD, depression, or other mental health issues can make it very hard to return to "life as usual." The VA has many programs to help men and women veterans recover from war-related injury and trauma, including PTSD and MST.

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More information on Women veterans with disabilities

Explore other publications and websites

  • Casualty Assistance - This website discusses the Casualty Assistance Program and how it helps injured and disabled veterans and their families. It also presents other options for families of injured, disabled, or deceased service members.
  • Depression (Copyright © AfterDeployment.org) - Problems with low mood are common after a deployment or return to civilian life. In the Dealing with Depression Program, learn about the causes and signs of depression. You can work in activity-based simulations and view testimonials from service members and their families.
  • Heroes to Hometowns - Heroes to Hometowns (H2H) is designed to welcome home service members who, because of injuries sustained, can no longer serve in the military. H2H establishes a support network and coordinates resources for severely injured service members returning home.
  • Living With Physical Injuries (Copyright © AfterDeployment.org) - Adjusting to a physical injury sustained during deployment can be difficult. This website can help you find ways to adjust to the immediate and long-term aspects of living with a physical injury.
  • Men and Women Veterans: Know the Warning Signs of Suicide - Did you know returning veterans may be at a higher risk of suicide? If you are thinking about hurting yourself, or if you experience any of the warning signs listed in this pamphlet, please call the National Suicide toll-free hotline number (1-800-273-TALK).
  • PTSD and Suicide - This fact sheet explores the relationship between PTSD and suicide. It also addresses important questions about understanding and coping with suicide.
  • TBI Facts (Copyright © Defense & Veterans Brain Injury Center) - American soldiers are at risk of injury from explosion. This fact sheet explains why these injuries can be so serious and what the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) is doing to help those who have sustained blast injuries.
  • Women Veterans Health Care - This brochure lists the various health care services available to women veterans, including general health care, mental health management, and other special programs.
  • Women Veterans Health Care: Frequently Asked Questions - This website answers questions about health care services specific to women veterans. It covers topics such as access to reproductive health care, resources for pregnant women, and how to get evaluated for nursing home care.
  • Women Veterans Health Care: Military Sexual Trauma - This website addresses the specific needs of women veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST). It describes the symptoms of MST and provides information on how to get help.
  • Women, Trauma, and PTSD - This fact sheet explains why women are more likely to get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than men after a traumatic event, what the signs and symptoms of PTSD are, and how the reactions to PTSD differ between men and women.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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