While sexual harassment of military servicewomen has been well documented, harassment at VA Medical Centers has flown under the radar. However, that’s not stopping VA officials who are embarking on an ambitious campaign so that female veterans are not harassed when they seek medical treatment at a VA facility.
From VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on down, the VA has recognized it has a problem with male veterans who refuse to accept that women have equal status in the military and as veterans. To curb harassment that can lead female veterans to go elsewhere for the health care they’ve earned, the department has embarked on a campaign to make medical centers nationwide more welcoming places for all veterans — one that involves explicit warnings not to harass or assault other vets.
The DC center also put out on its Facebook page a list of behavioral “do’s” and “don’ts” for veterans using the hospital. For instance, it is OK to talk about the weather, but “commenting on someone’s body” is not OK.
Next month, DC VAMC, in collaboration with the Veterans Mental Health Advisory Council, plans to convene a Military Sexual Trauma Summit at the hospital.
At the flagship Michael E. Debakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in Houston last year, the slogan was, “There is no excuse for harassment.”
“Cat calls NOT welcome. Staring and whistling — NOT okay at the VA,” the Houston Medical Center said in a release.
The VA is being proactive in this regard and is to be commended for facing the problem squarely.
In a January report, National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Institutes of Health wrote, “Harassment of servicewomen during military service has been well-documented, but harassment of women veterans in Veterans Affairs (VA) health care settings has not been studied systematically.”
The conclusion of an NCBI survey was that “one-quarter of women veteran VA users experienced harassment in VA health care settings.”
That’s just unacceptable. I’m pleased the VA is doing something about it.