VA serves women vets with special clinic

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A growing number of women in the community are military veterans, but they don't always use the benefits they earned.

In Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere our troops deploy, women serve alongside the men. When they come home, they don't always look for support.

The VA aims to change that.

There are more than 17,000 women veterans in the state of Utah. -Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City

Wencke Tate got back from the war in Iraq about a year ago. She has used the VA system in the past, but Friday was her first time at the Women's Clinic.

"The first time I heard about the Women's Clinic was a couple months ago, when I came back from Iraq," says Tate. "I think that is really great."

Eleven percent of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are women. Nearly 18 percent of our active duty military are female.

Friday, the VA Women Veterans Clinic at the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center gave female vets health screenings and information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Heart Disease, which is the No. 1 killer of women.

Gina Painter, Women's Program Manager at the VA, said, "This clinic has been here for over 10 years, and many in the community don't know that we have a women's clinic."

Women Veterans Open House
Friday, February 19, 2-4 p.m.
VA Women Veterans Clinic
George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center
500 Foothill Dr., Salt Lake City
Program manager 801-582-1565, ext. 5423

Female providers help women vets with everything from mammograms to primary care. The Women Veterans Program includes mammograms, pap tests, breast exams, bone density tests, birth control, prenatal care, peri-menopausal and menopausal care, sexual trauma evaluation and treatment, and gynecologic surgery.

"Normally women take care of others: take care of children, take care of spouses," says Painter. But their needs can be very different. For one, "Their symptoms of heart disease are different than in men," she says.

More than 12,000 women in Utah are veterans, and new veterans come home every day. Some experience PTSD, like the men, or they were victims of military sexual assault.

11 percent of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are women and close to 18 percent of our active duty military are female. -Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City

Across the country, the VA wants to address those issues.

"The saying goes, 'It's not your father's VA,'" says Painter. "We're going to see an unprecedented number of women veterans coming home from this current conflict."

Women like Tate, eager to use the benefits she earned.

"I think it is great that they have something just for women," says Tate. "We can be seen by women, and discuss our women issues with women, and not with men: somebody who might know a little more about what we are going through."

The VA also started a women vets support group to help them connect about unique issues. Next week they'll do yoga for stress relief. It meets 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays.


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Jed Boal


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