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Assessing a Peer’s Paper
Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the person authoring the work (peers). It is a collaborative process that provides support, encouragement, ideas, and reminders. We will be using peer review as a professional process to maintain quality of our final documents and to improve our writing skills. It is always good to have a second set of eyes and perspectives to improve the quality of a body of work. Share your papers on Day 3, and return comments of at least 700 words by Day 7.
Following are tips to effectively critique your peer’s paper.
1. Review the final paper rubrics
2. Be specific in your comments. The following website provides examples on how to write specific comments that help guide the writer to strengthen his or her paper: http://abacus.bates.edu/~ganderso/biology/resources/writing/HTWcritique.html
3. Point out the strengths of the paper by noting specific passages that are well written.
4. Point out where a specific area can be strengthened and in what way.
5. Take notice of large issues such as:
a. Is the assignment being addressed?
b. Is the main point clear and interesting?
c. Is there a clear focus or thesis?
d. Is the draft organized, following the outline provided in Week 6, and does it follow a logical sequence of points?
e. Are main ideas adequately developed?
6. Check basic writing skills such as grammar, spelling, incomplete sentences, over-run sentences, word choice, confusing sentences, etc.
7. Time is limited, so focus on areas that will give the peer the most benefit to improve the paper.
PEER’S PAPER: SEE THE BELOW ATTACHMENT
Transitional Needs of Female Veterans: Cultural & Health Factors
Transitional Needs of Female Veterans: Cultural & Health Factors
In the United States, as of 2018, 18 million people identify as veterans (United States Census Bureau, 2018). As of 2010, the Census Bureau no longer asks the question of veteran status, whether that is Active Duty, National Guard, or Reserves, via the decennial census. The new method uses three national surveys; the American Community Survey (ACS), Current Population Survey (CPS), and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) (United States Census Bureau, 2017). The demographic information provides insight into how the total ration of veterans in the U.S. population is shifting.
The demographics of the veterans’ population has changed since military service evolved from a conscripted military to an all-volunteer force in 1973. Since 1973, the number of veterans has dropped, with the current level of veterans estimated to drop by 40% from the current amount by 2045 (Bialik, 2017). The segment of the veteran population that are women will likely increase as previous generations of veterans that were conscripted before 1973 were predominately male.
Currently, as of January 1, 2020, of the United States Air Force’s 328,255 active-duty personnel, 20.9% are listed as women (Air Force Personnel Center, 2020). Comparatively, in F.Y. 1994, of the 426,327 Air Force active-duty personnel, just 66,314 (15.5%) were listed as female (Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, 2000). While the increase of 5% over 26 years may not overtly be a significant percentile change, the numbers are moving slowly towards the representation of females in the overall U.S. workforce, which is significantly more equal.
The tools the U.S. military uses in the 21st to rage war have changed compared to prior wars and missions. With the advent of precision-guided weapons, drone technology, space technology, and digital warfare, there has been reduced use of ground forces employed compared to prior wars and campaigns. The number of military members currently serving may incur less direct combat exposure, compared to previous veterans of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. For female veterans that were, until 2016, excluded from serving in the ground force combat units, their exposure to direct combat may be higher than in previous generations. Though, the significance of exclusion from specific jobs historically and the cultural image of who are combat soldiers may reinforce gender barriers and career progression.
To understand veterans and specifically female veterans and what services are needed after leaving the military, a background of the cultural differences between life in the military and life in the civilian should be acknowledged. The experiences of veterans may vary widely based on several factors to include: sex, race, the branch of service, officer or enlisted, length of service, exposure to combat, retired versus separated, and relative time spent separated from the civilian market. Many community organizations seek to help members find an identity after military service.
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) are nonprofit organizations that seek to improve veterans’ quality of life, through connection, support, and representation in government (Harada & Pourat, 2004). Having a voice in government for veterans is essential as the ratio of members in Congress who have prior military experience has dropped from a high in 1975 of 81% of senators to currently 20% (Bialik, 2017). Additionally, VSOs can provide military veterans with organizational structure and peer-level social support (Russell & Russell, 2018). This may improve a veteran’s mental well-being based on their military training, experience, and culture, where individuals rely on each other in life and death situations (Burnett & Segoria, 2009). For many people transitioning to the civilian world after military service, VSOs may bridge the “gap” between these two cultures. How women utilize VSOs is essential, especially if they feel socially isolated or excluded while in the military. Joining another military-based organization after leaving the military may not appeal to everyone, which adds additional barriers for a member to receive assistance and care.
The research focus of my paper will center on the issues surrounding the need for woman’s support through the transition from the military to the civilian world. Women play a more significant and dynamic role in the Armed Forces. Military leaders, Veterans Affairs, and VSOs need to develop an understanding of unique health and transition issues women face during and after military service.
The literature review provides an overview of the differences between military service and the civilian sector. Differences between how family and employment cultural norms impact on women in the Armed Forces. The information highlights previous research on cultural differences, documented challenges of the transition, and VSO functions. The development of background information will provide context to view the issues faced by female veterans when they leave military service.
There are cultural differences between people serving in the military and the larger population of the United States. Since 1973, the United States military has been an all-volunteer force, and people join for a variety of reasons. A study by Kelty, Kleykamp, and Segal (2010), highlights how changing to a voluntary force meant that military service is no longer a pause in the pursuit of adulthood. People may choose to enlist for training, skills, or educational benefits, or a call to service, with no intention of making the military a career but more of a stepping stone to future goals (Kelty et al., 2010). All military forces have some type of basic training required for members after they enlist into the Armed Forces. These training platforms can vary in length based on each military branch and the job the member has assigned. The training seeks to provide demanding socialization to military customs and standards and provides a means to facilitate economic independence from parents (Kelty et al., 2010). But with the positives of obtaining new skills and opportunities, there are always drawbacks.
While there are benefits to making the transition into military service, stressors in the military environment may expose personal vulnerabilities of recruits. Emotional difficulties were found to be higher in young women, and they demonstrated the lowest levels of adjustment to military life (Scharf, Mayseless, & Kivenson-Baron, 2011). Concepts of hyper-masculinity and being a warrior at all times in military training further leads to any idea of weakness as a negative (Burnett & Segoria, 2009). Feminine qualities and characteristics are devalued in military culture and have led to more women departing the military or being subjected to harassment and violence (Kelty et al., 2010). These characteristics of what makes a good soldier historically may be at odds in a 21st-century military with an increase in the number of women joining the ranks. Military service before volunteer service was not connected with family life, a fact that dramatically changed after 1973.
A study by Clever & Segal (2013) found that military members are more career-oriented and family-oriented, so to increase military member retention, policymakers must ensure the military family members are happy and supported. The junior enlisted members are twice as likely to be married compared to their civilian counterparts and typically have more conservative values regarding family and gender roles (Clever & Segal, 2013). While roughly 85% of the military is still male-dominated, the dominant role of childrearing is expected of women serving, which may hamper their ability to balance roles (Clever & Segal, 2013). Family-friendly policies implemented by the military may promote incentives to help male more than female service members remain on active-duty while taking care of a family (Lemmon, Whyman, & Teachman, 2009). With a military designed around marrying young and providing housing and income benefits, the reinforcement of traditional gender roles and increased issues of gender bias and discrimination may incur. For those families of military members, the spouse and children may find the transition to civilian life equally tricky.
Military spouses forgo career advancements due to moving with an active-duty military member. Employment challenges, frequent moves, unemployment, negative stereotypes, or oversaturated job markets are shown to put military spouses at a disadvantage to their civilian counterparts (Clever & Segal, 2013). Frequent moves, deployments, and the effects of changing parental roles and household norms in military houses can affect military children (Cole, 2017). A study by Cole (2017) found that a military student may transition between schools between six and nine times, which is three times the number of average for a child of a civilian family. The unique challenges of the military family as an integral part of the military structure and the military member’s life may affect the transition difficulties from military to civilian life once military service ends.
The transition “gap” when a member migrates from military service to civilian life is challenging for the member and their family. A study by Robertson & Brott (2013) showed that post-9/11 veterans have higher unemployment than the national average. The translation of military experience to the civilian market and veterans’ perception of career transition may require different approaches for men and women (Robertson & Brott, 2013). Designing strategies to move military members to the civilian sector as smooth as possible can be hampered by both physical and mental wounds the members carry through the transition.
Females in the military and women veterans (WV) are more likely to report mental health concerns, and women in one study cited a lack of support and cohesion as main contributors (Thomas, McDaniel, Haring, Albright, & Fletcher, 2018). A lack of support from institutions after leaving the military has been linked to increased levels of alienation and feeling mistreated and unappreciated (Ahern, Worthen, Masters, Lippman, Ozer, & Moos, 2015). Stress-related disorders in veterans are as high as one in six members, and most never seek care. This is based on the stigmas of seeking care, lack of knowledge, feeling of alienation, and trust (Russell & Russell, 2018). These mental health concerns may lead to higher levels of homelessness in veterans.
A study by Gordon, Haas, Luther, Hilton, & Goldstein (2010) found that the nature and stability of homeless living arrangements have an impact on the medical care of veterans. A significant amount of homeless veterans were found suffering from medical and psychiatric disorders (Gordon et al., 2010). These issues are further increased in women veterans who suffer higher-rates of trauma exposure across a lifetime and face additional barriers over their male counterparts to receive treatment and support (Evans, Glover, Washington, & Hamilton, 2018). The need to understand the obstacles that cause increased resistance to a successful long-term transition may improve female veterans’ success in managing life after the military.
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) help ease the transition from the military and provides continued services to veterans after military service. A study by Russell & Russell (2018) found that VSOs can serve an essential role in the transition process and help new veterans retain social identity. VSOs can provide informal peer-support as part of a person’s social support system that can provide emotional benefits (Russell & Russell, 2018). VSOs have been well-known for their political and social support of military members and veterans. A study by Harada & Pourat (2004) found that VSO members had the following attributes; above 60 years old, male, Caucasian, retired, lower-income, had health limitations. The study further found that VSOs play a significant role in veterans seeking Veterans Affairs (V.A.) healthcare (Harada & Pourat, 2004). One nonprofit organization seeking to support both the military and veterans through a variety of services is the United Service Organizations.
The United Service Organizations (USO) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1941 with pressure from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combine several service associations and benefits the community of the United States Armed Forces, both domestically and aboard. The USO currently has over 230 locations worldwide, and in 2017 more than seven million visits by military members were recorded (United Service Organizations, n.d.). Initially, the organization provided USO centers near bases that would make entertainment and activities available for military members as its primary purpose (Fundinguniverse, n.d.). Following WWII, the USO was reconstructed to provide support for military members at war and during peace to help both veterans and active duty negotiate between civilian and military life (Fundinguniverse, n.d.). A program that started in 2017 was the USO Pathfinder transition services. The program took two years of development (Hrcv.uso.org, 2017). The eight main focus areas of the transition program for service members and their families include employment, education, V.A. benefits, housing, finance, legal, family support, and health and wellness (Hrcv.uso.org, n.d.). The program assists transitioning service members 12 months before and 12 months after separation from the Armed Forces (Hrcv.uso.org, 2017). The USO transition program seems to align with the three most cited issues that are recorded by VSOs to help veterans with. These issues include housing issues, disability pay and benefits, and employment issues (Jahnke, Haddock, Carlos Poston, & Jitnarin, 2014). The USO is a historic VSO like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). How these VSOs are aligning to the changing active-duty and veteran demographics and needs must be further reviewed.
A study by Evan et al. (2018) found that stress, traditional gender roles, lack of support for women veterans, and the lack of female veteran role models demonstrate a need for the creation of a women veteran’s network to increase access to health and social services. Networking, as part of a new paradigm for veterans care, was also cited by Cole (2017) in regards to school counselors and their interaction with VSOs and other veteran stakeholders. The development of new and adapted VSOs to reach a broader audience of veterans, especially when veterans are from disenfranchised groups, may increase veteran participation.
Gender Differences in Military Cultural and Social Experiences
Since 1973, the proportion of women serving in the military has grown from 2% of the enlisted force and 8% of the officer corps to 16% and 18% respectively in 2016 (Council on Foreign Relations, 2016). This is quite different than the civilian labor market. According to the Department of Labor (2020) of women aged 25-54, 77% participate in the labor force. Additionally, since 2016, women have been authorized into prior male-only ground combat jobs, with nearly 3,000 women currently serving in these roles (Addario, 2019). The effects of higher-levels of inclusion into the military and the relaxation of once male-only jobs are positive signs towards greater gender openness. There are real-world implications of how policy implementation may be hampered by individuals within the structure that explicitly and implicitly are opposed to gender inclusion.
Figure 1. Population Representation in the Military Services. Council on Foreign Relations (2016).
Military women are five times more likely to be married to another service member compared to military men, three times more likely to be single parents, and women have a higher divorce rate (Segal, Smith, Segal, & Canuso, 2016). Compared to white females, black female service members are more educated and have significantly higher rates of intermarriage than their civilian counterparts (Houseworth & Grayson, 2019). These figures point to a military community that may, on paper, look like it supports working military women. The reality is leaders may still see military men as the provider and associate the women as the caregiver, as many military women are still expected to perform larger amounts of family care than their military spouse.
Gender norms in the United States associate women as primary caregivers. The competition of time and mental resources spilt between family life and military life may be contributing factors to women leaving the military early (Dodds & Kiernan, 2019). The reinforcement of gender roles and expectations in a conservative-leaning military community increases the likelihood to exacerbate alienation and exclusion.
Issues like benevolent sexism, inappropriate behavior, and hostile work environments can have detrimental effects on military women in the workplace (Segal et al., 2016). In the author’s experience as a military construction worker, benevolent sexism plays a significant role in tasks that require heavy lifting and difficulty. Inappropriate jokes and behaviors further fuel hostile work environments. Many times in the workplace, the author has listened to people cite gender-specific uniforms/standards, and physical assessments as the reason women are a negative gain for a military unit. As military service is historically tied to the husband/father role, this can further hamper a women’s social identity in the military (Kelty et al., 2010). All of the above issues can lead to reasons military women choose to leave the service earlier than they originally planned.
Women may use different strategies than men in their style of leadership. In the author’s experience in leadership development, this topic was never discussed. The approach that women use may be different based on the male-dominated organizational structure and conservative attitudes. Women may have to balance how assertive, feminine, or emotional based on the context in which she is operating. Coming off too confident may lead to people thinking of her as a “bitch” and not conforming to gender norms. An example from the author’s life comes from watching their mother interact in a business setting compared to home life. The author’s mother would talk very confident and straight-forward in conversation at the workplace, but once home, she would act very feminine and play “dumb” when talking to her husband. This personality shift is one example of how people may change their personalities to navigate different situations.
Women join the military as volunteers, knowing that the military is male-dominated. Women that work in these environments are more likely to be confident, self-motivated, strong, and fearless (Dodds et al., 2019). The military workforce is an up-or-out promotion system that has nearly half of the workforce aged between 18-24 years old (Kelty et al., 2010). Many career fields in the military still conform to gender norms, with higher rates of females in admin and medical career fields and males in the maintenance and construction fields.
The Air Force and Navy tend to have service members that stay in more prolonged and advocate for higher levels of technological training (Clever & Segal, 2013). Towards this point, the military continually struggles with “brain drain” in specific career fields that promise more money in the civilian world. In many cases, the military will offer re-enlistment bonuses or other select pay to motivate people to stay in an all-volunteer job. Though it should be noted that while it is voluntary to join the military, a service commitment is signed at the entry that must be met before the service contract can end. Service members may terminate early due to medical, criminal, or another service-disqualifying issue. In the Air Force, military women have up to 12 months after pregnancy to choose to separate from the military, if they wish to leave the service to care for a child (Losey, 2017).
The military is well-known for extended separations and frequent moves, the effects of which may be different for military women than military men (Clever & Segal, 2013). During that time away, a child of military family may have to transition from having a two-parent household or may have to live with a designated guardian. The family transition and reintegration may negatively affect the child’s mental well-being (Cole, 2017). This may be especially difficult for military women based on socially promoted gender norms of being the primary caregiver. Understanding the unique aspects of childrearing and care on military women can further illuminate the challenges to reintegration after deployment and separation (Thomas et al., 2018). If a military policy is universal between genders concerning reintegration, but not on primary caregiver roles, then women may be disadvantaged when repairing family structures following deployments. These issues may drive women to not only leave the military early but increase the frequency of mental health conditions.
Women’s Health During and After Military Service
The ratio of women veterans is increasing, but currently, the ages of women are significantly lower than males. The current average age of women veterans is 48 years, compared to the average age of male veterans of 63 (Villagran, Ledford, & Canzona, 2015). Women veterans compared to males have shown higher estimates for PTSD, major depression, migraine headaches, and increased musculoskeletal disorders (Mayard, Nelson, & Fihn, 2019). These issues are not unique to female veterans, but the occurrence is significantly higher compared to male veterans or civilian females.
According to a study by Sairsingh, Solomon, Helstrom, Treglia (2018), depression is a significant health condition in female veterans, with higher rates compared to male veterans. Due to the cultural hindrance of acknowledging women as combatants, health care officials may be more likely to diagnose women with depression or anxiety instead of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) (Heinemen, 2017). PTSD is associated with increased risk for select autoimmune diseases, with higher rates documented in females compared to male veterans (Bookwalter, Roenfeldt, LeardMann, Riddle, & Rull, 2020). PTSD for both the individual and society is costly, and due to stigmas associated with treatment, many veterans never seek help, drop out early, or do not benefit from treatment (Neilson, Singh, Harper, & Teng, 2020). For female veterans, specifically, the events that transpired to cause the mental health conditions may be a factor in treatment.
Women’s health issues differ from males, including aspects of gynecological care, pregnancy, menopause, and a significantly higher frequency of mental health concerns correlated to MST, IPV (Brooks et al., 2016). A study by Dichter & True (2015) found that sexual assault, harassment, lack of social support were key factors to many women leaving the military early. Women veterans are exposure to high-rates of trauma over their lifetime to include MST and IPV, which may correlate to higher levels of mental health needs (Evans et al., 2018). IPV rates were shown to be 1.6 times higher for women that served in the military (Dichter, Wagner, & True, 2015). These issues can increase risks for eating disorders, harmful substance use, and chronic pain (Dodds & Kiernan, 2019). Furthermore, past MST, combined with IPV, can lead to reinforcement of beliefs about others, oneself, and cause avoidance behavior (Mahoney, Shayani, & Iverson, 2020). These issues may further be associated with significantly higher suicide rates for female veterans compared to women who had not served (Kotzias, Engel, Ramchand, Ayer, Predmore, Ebener, Haas, Kemp, & Karras, 2019).
According to a study by Thomas et al. (2018), an estimated 20-40% of women that served in the military have experienced military sexual trauma (MST). Veterans that experienced sexual harassment or assault while in the service are twice as likely to injure themselves or commit suicide (Kelty et al., 2010). MST is also associated with increased rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) towards female veterans (Evans et al., 2018). The combination of MST and IPV in female veterans contributes to increased risk for cognitive/mood symptoms of PTSD (Mahoney et al., 2020). Female veterans may be reluctant to come forward to identify these traumatic issues to health professional or military leadership for several reasons.
Culturally, there are negative connotations towards seeking help for mental health issues and treatment. Women in the military may feel alienated or unwilling to report assault and rape while in the service if they believe the military unit may turn against them for doing so. In the military, cultural concepts of honor, teamwork, and protecting the mission may further influence peoples’ perception of when to report crimes. These issues can lead military women and veterans to use unhealthy or damaging processes to combat MST and IPV, including; substance abuse, risky behaviors, isolation, and damaging personal/family relationships (Kelty et al., 2010). The use of “self-medication” can further increase the chances of creating additional health complications, rates of homelessness, and employment issues (Berenson, 2011). The compound of effect on the lives of women after they depart from military service may further dissuade women from seeking help, especially at V.A. clinics.
According to Villagran et al. (2015), Women veterans report issues of health care similar to other disenfranchised groups. These issues include lower perceived quality of care, access to care, provider biases, and poor health outcomes. A study by Kehle-Forbes, Harwood, Spoont, Sayer, Gerould, & Murdoch (2017), found 25% of women reported unwanted interactions by male veterans at V.A. clinics while seeking care. This alone may dissuade women veterans from seeking care at V.A. clinics, especially those that suffered MST and IPV. Women may also choose to hide “self-medicating” methods from V.A. staff due to social stigma and shame (Evans et al., 2018). These issues can lead female veterans to seek care through referrals to community care, which can reduce their perception of care quality (Chanfreau, Washington, Chuang, Brunner, Darling, Canelo, & Chanfreau-Coffinier, 2019). These factors further isolate and alienate female veterans after they leave military service.
Future Considerations and Recommendations Section
As discussed in this paper, females make up a smaller portion of the workforce in the United States Armed Forces compared to men. The cultural identity of the warrior and military member is still male-dominated and correlated with husband-provider concepts. These concepts are reinforced outside the military in the gender norms of U.S. society. This leads to additional barriers for the military to promote the ‘woman warrior’ and gather acceptance by both members in the military and the greater U.S. society.
Additionally, the tendency for the military to attract and retain military members that have a cultural identity with more conservative-leanings may further hamper the promotion of the ‘woman warrior.’ A study by Neilson et al., (2020), found “Members of the military receive implicit and explicit messages that normalize, reinforce, and instill traditional values of masculinity” (p.2). Based on feminist theory, these factors may work against females both in the service and after service and continue to promote the male-centric role of a warrior, veteran, and provider.
The barriers women face upon entering the military, serving, and finally earning the title of veteran, are not the same as their male counterparts. A structural-functionalist view of the military would see military rules and policies as a means to organize the military into set functions and structures. On paper, the military is a top-down hierarchal organization that functions smoothly and promotes solidarity and stability. The military has numerous policies and regulations to enforce these structures that don’t discriminate against genders outright. How non-gendered polices are accepted, implemented, and what oversight exists, are critical to see in what manner military functional structures may discriminate. The author found a quote that seems to illustrate one aspect of gender issues in the military. This issue may not specifically be in conflict with a explicit policy, but never the less hurts female soldier’s social capital and may restrict them from advancement. The quote is from Segal et al., (2016):
Men’s reluctance to mentor women may be avoidance because of stereotypes, worry about saying or doing something that will be perceived as sexual harassment, uncomfortable or anxious with women in general in nonsexual relationships, negative perceptions by coworkers, or fear of spousal jealousy. (p.36)
A future recommendation is to review and analyze how policies in the military are put into practice, and the real-world effects on different genders. The Department of Defense can issue a policy, but how each military branch and command implements that policy may be different. A study of how policies may increase or decrease gender discrimination or female retention in the military based on practical implementation may yield varied results across the military services. This includes a review of policies and procedures that control and identify issues of potential new recruits.
Each military branch has basic requirements for entrance into the military, and unique needs for different career fields. These requirements include physical, educational, and health standards. Understanding the unique issues women are exposed to during and after the military should consider what mental health issues existed before service as conditions that may further exacerbate traumatic events during service, especially in recruits from military families.
As discussed in previous sections, female veterans have higher rates of depression and PTSD. Female veterans compared to male veterans have higher rates of exposure to MST, and IPV over their lifetime. Women that have served are more likely to report childhood abuse and childhood adversities (Evans et al., 2018). With higher rates of women serving, the chance of intergenerational transmission of service should increase the likelihood that female recruits may come from a household with a mom that is active in or a veteran of the military (Clever & Segal, 2013). This is especially important when considering that roughly 35% of veterans seeking mental health care at V.A. facilities report having children under 18 in their household (Cole, 2017). The study by Cole (2017), added children of veterans (with mental health issues) are more likely to display mental health issues themselves. Finally, Evans et al. (2018) stated that childhood adversity is a contributor to poor health, especially in female veterans.
A recommendation based on the higher levels of depression and mental health concerns of female veterans and exposure to MST and IPV should seek to understand what effects there are on female veterans’ daughter’s mental health, behavioral tendencies, and levels of intergenerational transmission of service. Understanding the mental health needs of females entering into military service may better help develop healthy mental health treatment plans and identify risk factors for leaders.
The standards of the military preclude the acceptance of potential recruits due to several discriminators to include missing limbs. These policies are accepted as a necessity due to limitations of mobility, productivity, and other performance measures. Mental health seems to be a lagging consideration of employment in the military, considering that it has implications for the health of the individual, team function, and productivity. Once in the service, these members may find military service non-conducive. To this point, the author found that there may be further difficulties, limitations, and fewer veterans’ services for those that are discharged with anything less than an Honorable Discharge.
Future consideration should be given to a study of those discharged under lower discharge categories, the official reason, and a qualitative review of the reasons given by witnesses and the member. The results may provide conflicting information when comparing the official narrative, compared to the testimony of those members. As discussed previously, mental health issues can lead to risky behaviors, unhealthy coping strategies, substance abuse, and alienation. This minority population, which may have acted out, violated regulations, broke laws, and no longer conformed to standards due to undetected or ignored mental health issues, may be subject to further troubles after separation from the military. Helping to rehabilitate these members and giving them paths for second chances may promote a healthier veteran climate. Transitional programs should develop techniques and tools to factor for unique cultural, financial, and transitional needs.
The military offers a one-week Transition Assistance Program (TAP) for separating service members (Robertson, 2013). Within the last year, the author attended this program that emphasized job searching and financial planning. There was a one day workshop on utilizing V.A. services, and the overall information of the course was surface-level of various resources and tools. The program did little to train or assist members in navigating the changes in identity, the changing membership of social groups of active-duty military to a veteran, and how new employment may not lack the same sense of purpose (Hendricks, Haring, McDaniel, Fletcher, & Albright, 2017). Additionally, the TAP course did little to assist members that have cognitive injuries, which has been shown to impair transitions to civilian work (Kelty et al., 2010). Nor did the course take into account additional barriers female members may have struggled with during service and how those issues may affect their later mental health or foster obstacles to transition (Thomas et al., 2018). These problems, if not address during the TAP program or before service ends, may lead to veterans feeling abandon, and unsupported by VSOs and V.A. services (Ahern et al., 2015).
Within the last few years, the DoD has promoted a transition program for those separating from the military called SkillBridge. The program allows people to work for a private company for up to 180 as an intern while still receiving full military pay. The program seeks to help bridge the gap for members transitioning to the civilian workforce (DoDSkillBridge, 2019). Based on the review of the program, the weak area seems to be that a local commander is the approval authority for a separating or retiring member to use the service. This allows for non-uniformity in the utilization of the service if local commanders are unwilling to approve these requests. The transition program is open to all transiting members, but how applications are authorized and accepted are subject to local leaders. If a member is not well-liked, has had previous mental health issues, or doesn’t fit accepted norms. There is a higher probability of discrimination towards the approval of these services. A recommendation for these services is to promote higher-level authority for the approval process to promote equality in access to these separating programs. Once military service is terminated, local commanders are no longer responsible for ensuring a transitioning member has a social support network, and the responsibility falls onto the member.
As discussed previously, women veterans report higher levels of depression compared to males. A study by Sairsingh et al., (2018), found “higher levels of social support and financial comfort were significantly associated with lower levels of depression” (p.136). Additionally, a lack of understanding of women’s’ experiences in the military may further dismiss traumatic events and exposures compared to male veterans (Dodds & Kiernan, 2019). This may lead to the public, VSOs, and the V.A. downplaying women’s mental health issues. The development of a robust social support system for transitioning female veterans may depend on the ability of VSOs to have practical knowledge and a specific understanding of women veterans’ experiences.
Many traditional VSOs that offer location-based services such as the American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), are associated with have high-levels of older male members and unwelcoming to female veterans (Brooks, Dailey, Bair, Shore, 2016), (Thomas et al., 2018). Based on the information reviewed by the author, legacy VSOs promote a conservative idea of who is a military veteran, if not in policy, then by established norms and biases of their members. Established, large VSOs offer the ability to lobby for policies and have longstanding social capital and prestige. Women veterans may be disadvantaged if they are not readily active in these groups and are regulated to new smaller VSOs or don’t participate at all. This significantly increases if women veterans suffer mental health issues due to service-related events or negative views of how the military systems treated them, some VSOs may be viewed as “more of the same.”
A review of VSOs may show equality as a tenant of the organization based on policy. Still, an understanding of their demographics and ability to conform to the changing military demographics and military culture should be considered when promoting VSOs for people in transition and afterward. Working towards inclusion in VSOs, the development of social support groups and networks for females, especially during transition, and for those that are transitioning due to less than ideal reasons, maybe a successful way to promote connection and increase inclusion.
Ultimately, a change of view of transition should be a future consideration. A military member should work on developing civilian career field social capital like a saving plan and not a quick rundown of how to do it, whenever military separation arrives. While the military offers base locations for organizations such as the USO, other VSOs could connect military members with civilian peers to promote social capital growth and networks.
Instilling career-long connections to the civilian sector and collaborating with these sectors to identify trends, educational milestones, and certification requirements may further reduce transitional barriers for members. While not applicable in every instance, a military culture (promoted by DoD policy) that reinforces the need to build and maintain professional connections in the civilian world may reduce concerns with at least one aspect of transition for veterans.
Limitations and Biases
The goal of this research study was to identify past and current issues surrounding the needs of women veterans. The development of an understanding of what females in the military endure both socially and physically is essential when looking at issues affecting women veterans. The information provided in the review of numerous studies gave peer-reviewed data-points, and the author’s personal anecdotes and thoughts illuminated the subject from an individual’s perspective. The limitations and biases of this study should be noted.
The author is a white male in their late 30s from an upper-lower class upbringing and has 20 years in the United States Air Force in a male-dominated Civil Engineer career field. These data points show that all perspectives of the issues come from a third-party view concerning women’s health and social issues.
The limitations of this study include the research topic being too broad for the constraints of the assignment. While the assignment highlighted issues both socially and health-related for women leaving military service, it did little to dive deep into any one specific section of the transition. Future work should at exploring these areas of social interaction of women in the military work-centers. How specific health issues for women may differ across career fields and military branches. Finally, a study to understand what safeguards and resources exist or should be modified or improved to highlight and assistance the largest growing segment of the veteran population.
The research focus of this paper centered on issues surrounding the need for woman’s support through the transition from the military to the civilian world. The paper sought to highlight social and health issues women face during military service and to acknowledge issues women veterans disproportionally face compared to their male counterparts. Women play a more significant and dynamic role in the Armed Forces than ever before. Military leaders, Veterans Affairs, and VSOs need to develop an understanding of unique health and transition issues women face during and after military service.
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