Support for Women Veterans

with Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd of the VA Center for Women Veterans

Currently, there are more than 2 million American women veterans. Some report feeling their service is often less recognized than that of men, impacting their self-identity as vets. How is VA working to make sure women veterans receive full equity and access to services?

Jacquelyn Hayes-Byrd, Executive Director of the VA Center for Women Veterans, shares some of the unique challenges faced by women after they leave military service and services available to help.

Posted on:

November 10, 2020

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: There are more than 2 million women veterans living in the United States today. However, their service to our nation is often less recognized than the service of men. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. A 2018 report by "Disabled American Veterans" states that women are the fastest-growing subpopulation of the military and veteran communities. Jacquie Hayes-Byrd is the Executive Director of the VA Center for Women Veterans, and she joins me now to talk about some of the unique challenges faced by women after they leave the military service. And, Jacquie, thank you so much for being here. Hayes-Byrd: Well, thank you for inviting me. I'm very happy to be here and to talk about what we do here at the Center for Women veterans. Thank you. Anderson: So, we know that the overall number of veterans is going down, but at the same time, the number of women veterans is going up. Explain why that is. What's going on? Hayes-Byrd: Well, it's a positive, actually, because women veterans have gained a lot of pluses while they were in the military, and oftentimes, many women want to do something different, and they take what they've learned in their careers and brought them back to their communities. So, we have women veterans who have been out for a very long time. Along with the women veterans who are leaving today, that increases to our 2 million veterans. So, when it comes to anybody who's transitioning out of the military, we know that there can be challenges, but there are some very specific challenges for women -- -- the group that you work with -- including the idea that some of them don't even see themselves as veterans. Why is that? What's going on?

Hayes-Byrd: Well, oftentimes, women veterans, when they're in the military, you know, they do their jobs, they get it done, and they keep moving, and when they come out of the military, the same thing applies -- they want to start new careers, raise a family, you know, just become a regular part of society. And so, they don't always see themselves as women veterans or veterans, period, because they don't always see as many women in the military as you see male veterans, and so, that association sometimes clicks for them. When they come out of the military, we want to make sure that when they do need those services from the VA, that they receive full equity and access, wait times, and usage and trust with the VA. Anderson: So, I want to go back to this idea that women don't necessarily see themselves as veterans, because I know that this is something that applies to you, personally. Can you share a little bit of your story? Hayes-Byrd: Sure. When I was in the military myself -- you know, I left in the early '90s, and back then, I rarely saw women in the military. It depended on where I was stationed where I saw women veterans. And so, when I left the military, I didn't see myself as a veteran. My dad was the veteran, or the males were the veterans. When I did leave, I was able to then just focus on getting out of the military and starting a career, and that even began as, you know, "Okay, how do I write a resume?" And so, I was really just starting from scratch, and there were many women that had to follow that same trail. Anderson: So, that brings us to what the VA Center actually does. So, when it comes to the VA Center for Women veterans, what sort of services are you offering these women to take what those challenges might be and turn them into solutions? Hayes-Byrd: So, the VA is not your grandfather's VA anymore. The services that are offered today include housing loans, small business programs, healthcare. Many times, women don't understand or don't know that maternity care is offered there. We talk to women veterans about business ownership, as well -- those that want to start their own business. This gives women veterans the opportunity, and we help women veterans navigate through the VA when they're finding that it's difficult to make those moves. We can help them navigate through the system to reach those particular functions. Anderson: Jacquie, if people want to know more about what you all do, what some of the services are, where can they go? What's your website? Hayes-Byrd: Oh, I'm happy to share that with you. They can go to Anderson: Jacquie Hayes-Byrd with the VA Center for Women Veterans. Thank you so much for being here. Hayes-Byrd: Thank you for having me, and we appreciate all the support that you give. We wouldn't be able to provide this service had it not been for the Veterans Canteen Service, which is one of the biggest advocates for women veterans. Thank you very much for having us. Anderson: And thank you to our viewers as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the country, be sure to visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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