By Stacy Vasquez

VA’s efforts to provide housing and health care support for women Veterans have never been more critical. The number of homeless women Veterans continues to rise. As a result, VA is taking steps to improve and expand its services for women Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. While VA’s services are available to all Veterans, there are special programs available to women Veterans, including supportive services for Veteran families, HUD-VASH housing vouchers, Grant and Pier Diem program, and specialized health care and mental health services for women—all designed to better meet the needs of women Veterans.

VA understands that many women Veterans face great challenges when returning to civilian life that are different from those of male Veterans. These challenges, without intervention, can put women Veterans at greater risk of becoming homeless.

“Homelessness is really a symptom and the end step in a long stage of deterioration,” said W. Scott Gould, Assistant Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, at the 25th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colorado. “Once they are [at VA], we have the tools and capabilities to be able to help them,” he said.

According the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, women comprised 8 percent of the homeless Veteran population in 2010; however, they represented only 7 percent of the Veteran population.

A recent GAO report cites the special conditions or predispositions that make it hard for women to readjust after service. Two-thirds of homeless women Veterans were between 40 and 59 years old, the report said, and more than one-third had disabilities. In addition, many of these women live with young children. In addition to the demands that come with bearing and raising children, women are sometimes victims of traumatic events experienced during their service. The GAO emphasized the need for VA to provide reliable and expansive programs that specifically aim to help women Veterans get the benefits, housing, child care, transportation, and health care support they need.

All homeless Veterans and Veterans at risk of homelessness are encouraged to connect with VA services by calling the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838), or online at www.veteranscrisisline.net.

VA will continue to evaluate and ramp up its programs to meet the needs of all homeless and at-risk Veterans, men and women alike—a challenge VA embraces.

For more on VA’s initiative to end Veteran homelessness by 2015, and to access information and resources, visit: www.va.gov/homeless.

Stacy Vasquez is a U.S. Army Veteran (1991 – 2003). She currently serves as the Deputy Director for Homeless Veteran Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.