Tomorrow we celebrate Veterans Day by paying tribute to all the brave men and women that have served our country. We honor those who sacrificed their lives so the rest of us could raise our families and pursue the American Dream. And with thousands of troops expected to return from Iraq by the end of the year – many who are on a second or third tour – we are reminded of their continued sacrifice. It is our turn to serve them as they come home.
Currently, women account for about 14 % of the U.S. military. More than 40% of women on active-duty in Iraq and Afghanistan are mothers and 30,000 of them are single mothers. Women veterans are at four times greater risk of homelessness than their non-veteran civilian counterparts. Over the last decade, the number of homeless women veterans has nearly doubled.
Since more women are serving in our nation’s military than ever before, it is important that we address the unique challenges they face as they try to reintegrate back into the workforce, family and the community.
These women warriors have fought for us and we must now fight for them and their families to achieve economic security and the American Dream.
The needs of our women veterans are different. Their unique and multiple traumas impact their ability to readjust to civilian life. Their compelling stories remind us that we must do more for those who have sacrificed so much.
The combination of multiple traumas such a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and/or domestic violence can impact their daily functioning and increase risk of homelessness.
As Secretary Solis has said, “We are shining a light on this issue. No woman veteran should come home to be homeless.”
The Women’s Bureau hosted a series of listening sessions with homeless female veterans and service providers across the country to gain insight into their reintegration challenges. As a result, the Bureau sponsored women-to-women Stand Downs, in a safe environment, to provide free services that ranged from employment, job training, as well as, housing vouchers, mental health screening and child care services.
(See, the new WB video, “Giving a Voice to Hope” Assistance for Female Veterans)
The Bureau also released Trauma-Informed Care for Women Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: A Guide for Service Providers, to better equip service providers with a deeper understanding of the unique experiences and needs of female veterans.
DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) is working to ensure that the needs of veterans and their families are fully addressed as well. VETS serves veterans and transitioning service members by providing resources to assist and prepare them for meaningful careers, maximize their employment opportunities and protect their employment rights. VETS awarded $5.3 million in grants to support partnerships that ensure that homeless women veterans have career and training opportunities to expedite the reintegration of homeless female veterans and their families into the labor force.
Additionally, the department launched two new sites for veterans this week. Post-9/11 veterans looking for work can download what we’re calling the Veterans Gold Card, and My Next Move which gives you up to six months of personalized job search services at career centers across the country.
As President Obama said, “We honor the service and the sacrifice of all who have worn the uniform of the United States of America with honor and distinction. And above all, we commit ourselves to serving them as well as they have served us.”
Let us honor and stand up for our Women Warriors.
To find out more about the Women’s Bureau visit our website at www.dol.gov/wb. For more information on the services and programs that the Department of Labor offers veterans, please visit: http://www.dol.gov/.
Sara Manzano-Díaz is Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.