100 minutes celebrating 100 years of Veterans Affairs providing women’s health care

The first two female patients were admitted to a veterans home in Milwaukee in 1923
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 3:37 PM CDT
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - Veterans Affairs staff and supports are traveling the state ahead of Sept. 14, the 100th anniversary of the VA providing women’s health care.

Staff are spending 100 minutes celebrating those 100 years at VA clinics throughout the state to get the word out about the programs and care available to female veterans. They were in the central region Tuesday, visiting the clinics in Wisconsin Rapids, Wausau, and Clark County with tables full of goodies and resources for anyone who wanted to join.

The first two female patients were admitted to a veterans home in Milwaukee in 1923.

“It’s kind of nice that we have it right here, locally,” Sarah Rezin, the Women Veterans program manager smiled, saying the care has really morphed over that time.

Rezin explained it was not until the 1940s that the VA started having female physicians caring for female veterans. She said the male physicians did not know how to take care of the women’s health care needs.

“Then, certainly, in the 80s and 90s, it really started to rocket. That’s when our maternity package started to come. That’s when they decided that we really do need a women veterans program manager. We need women’s health care providers. We need a doctor at every clinic or a nurse practitioner at every clinic that (sic) can care for our women veterans.”

Today, Rezin stated women have the same services available to them that men do, like mental health, occupational therapy, military sexual trauma services, acupuncture, primary care, etc. She said they have worked to tailor the needs of women in that care, though, like having longer appointments, and specific care with pain or hormone imbalances that men do not typically experience. They have programs for maternity, infertility, newborn care, and menopausal care.

“I have a lot of patients that I’ve cared for in the maternity aspect that (sic) say, ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I would have known about this years ago.’”

Rezin said they know there are many female veterans who are not getting care through the VA, but encourage them to get enrolled and learn more about what the VA offers even if they have private insurance, as care for infertility, for example, is often not covered under private insurance.

The formal century celebration happens Thursday, Sept. 14 at the Tomah VA and will feature guest speakers like Dr. Ishita Thakar, Deputy Chief of Staff at Oklahoma City VA, and a Veterans Integrated Service Network 19 representative in Veterans Health Administration’s Women’s Health Clinical Field Task Force. The program will take place at 1 p.m. at Building 455.