Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Civilian Life Difficult for Female Vets, Survey Says; Women in Duval Face Problems All Veterans Face, Plus Child Care and Gender Discrimination

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Civilian Life Difficult for Female Vets, Survey Says; Women in Duval Face Problems All Veterans Face, Plus Child Care and Gender Discrimination

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

For female veterans in Duval County, finding adequate employment, financial stresses and mental health challenges are the leading barriers to building successful civilian lives after military service, according to the results of a recent survey.

The survey was the first phase of RestorHER, a two-year research project by Jacksonville-based nonprofit Northeast Florida Women Veterans and the University of Florida Psychology Department and funded by the Women's Giving Alliance of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.

In the next phase, a system of care and services will be developed that responds to the survey results.

"We have a lot of work to be done," said veteran Deloris "Dee" Quaranta, founder and executive director of the women veterans group.

Survey results were released this week as part of the group's Women's Veterans Recognition Week program.

A total of 1,088 participants were recruited from social media, job fairs, Veterans Affairs clinics and health fairs. They were asked what gender-specific issues they faced, what services they most need and how easy existing services are for them to find and use. Duval was targeted because it has the highest number of female veterans in the state, with about 15,000.

The most prevalent barrier was employment-related, with 29 percent of the women having difficulty finding "suitable employment" and the same number reporting a lack of needed job training, according to the survey. About 26 percent of the women said they had trouble paying bills; 22 percent, finding adequate child care; 16 percent, finding adequate housing; and 16 percent, accessing medical care.

Part of the problem is lack of awareness of what services are available, Quaranta said. But the women also have difficulty accessing existing services because of lack of transportation or child care, she said. In addition, more gender-specific services are needed.

Like their male counterparts, women veterans are subject to post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, health issues, a high divorce rate and homelessness. But they also have other challenges that men may not face, such as child care, single-parenting issues, sexual abuse and gender discrimination in employment, according to the local group.

About 72 percent of the women surveyed said they had at least one service-related health problem. The most common physical problem was hypertension, at 26 percent. But most of their issues were related to mental health - 47 percent, depression or anxiety disorders; 39 percent, sleep disorders; 30 percent, post-traumatic stress disorder; and 18 percent, military sexual trauma. …

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