Earlier this month, I was honored to attend the swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a congresswoman from Illinois. As a helicopter pilot who served in Iraq, she lost both her legs and the partial use of one arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack.
A record 98 women − 101 counting nonvoting members − now serve in the House and Senate. In addition to Rep. Duckworth, this year’s freshman class also includes Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii who served a tour in Iraq with the Army National Guard.
Reps. Duckworth and Gabbard are not only a testament to the growing number of women now serving in Congress, but to the record number of women returning home from service to their country.
In keeping with our vision to empower all working women to achieve economic security, the department’s Women’s Bureau has focused on helping women veterans who are homeless find a path to good jobs and financial security.
We joined forces with the Department of Veterans Affairs to sponsor a number of women-to-women “Stand Downs.” These events provided a safe environment for women veterans to access critical services for free, including medical care, job training and housing assistance.
And based on the bureau’s listening sessions with homeless women veterans, as well as our work with the organizations that serve them, we developed the Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers. The guide is designed to equip service providers with a deeper understanding of women veterans’ unique experiences and needs.
To ensure that service providers know how to use the guide, and other available resources to help homeless women veterans, the Women’s Bureau has been hosting round tables around the country. Participants have included representatives from homeless shelters, medical centers, community-based organizations, and state and federal organizations.
And through a recent webinar hosted by the Women’s Bureau, community and private health care providers learned how to tailor their programs and policies to better serve women veterans, such as treating them in settings that make them feel safe.
Leaders like Reps. Duckworth and Gabbard are amazing role models, and we hope they − along with the rest of Congress − will work to help our returning heroes reintegrate into civilian life. As President Obama said in his 2012 Veterans Day proclamation, it is our responsibility to ensure that returning veterans “can share in the opportunities they have given so much to defend.”
To learn more about the Women’s Bureau, visit www.dol.gov/wb.
Latifa Lyles is acting director of the department’s Women’s Bureau.