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.