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Veterans Health Administration

 

Helping Women Veterans Find the Help They Need

A woman at a call desk smiles

Call Center was established in 2011 to let women Veterans know about the services they are entitled to.

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Thursday, August 14, 2014

“I think the benefit of having a call center that focuses on women Veterans is that we are letting the women who served our country know we recognize that they are out there and we are here to serve them now,” according to Tamatha Lee, Women Veterans Call Center telephone agent.

VA’s Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) has greatly expanded VA’s outreach to women Veterans since it first began making calls to women Veterans by adding an incoming line in April of 2013. The incoming Women Veterans Call Center line—1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)— receives and responds to questions about available VA services and resources from women Veterans, their families and caregivers across the nation.

Since its launch in April of 2013, the WVCC has received more than 11,000 incoming calls and made nearly 130,000 outbound calls, successfully reaching 76,000 women Veterans. In addition, the WVCC mailed over 10,000 packets of information to women Veterans at their request.

Here’s one more example of the formidable effectiveness of the service

“A few weeks into making calls, I spoke with a woman Veteran who was ecstatic to hear from someone from the VA. She told us she was about to become homeless and did not know where to turn. I got her connected to the Homeless hotline and I also sent a referral to the Women Veteran Program Manager (WVPM) located at the VA closest to her. Within a few hours I heard back from the WVPM.

“She had already made contact with the woman Veteran and had her connected with homeless services at the facility. In addition, the woman Veteran was given an appointment for the next day with a primary care physician. It is so nice to see the entire VA coming together to assist the Veteran” as recounted by Samantha Williams, telephone agent.

 I said you are welcome and that is why we are here. 

Nearly 400,000 women Veterans receive VA health care

The number of women using VA health care has more than doubled, from nearly 160,000 in 2000 to more than 390,000 in 2013. Women now make up 15 percent of active duty and 18 percent of Guard/Reserve service members. The population of women Veterans using VA benefits including health care is growing rapidly and is expected to double again in the next decade.

Despite this rapid growth, women constitute only six percent of VA’s total patient population. VA has also found that women Veterans underutilize VA care, largely due to a lack of knowledge about VA benefits and available services. In response, an outbound Call Center was established in 2011 to contact women Veterans and to let them know about the services they have earned and are entitled to.

VA wants to encourage more women Veterans to try VA health care and let them know that they are welcome in VA centers around the country.

Jill Garrison, a telephone agent, shares a call she had.

“Last evening, a woman Veteran returned a voice message left for her from earlier in the day. We had called her to follow-up on a call we had made to her last month. The Veteran reported that she had indeed received the package of information we had mailed her and the information was very informative.

“She also shared that during the initial call we made to her, we walked her through how to complete the 10-10EZ form. She said she completed the form and is now receiving care from the VA. She stated that she had her first medical appointment at the VA last week. She thanked us. I said you are welcome and that is why we are here.”

A single avenue for women Veterans to find the help they need

“The Women Veterans Call Center is aimed at increasing women Veterans’ knowledge of VA services and benefits. Many women Veterans do not know that they may indeed be eligible for VA benefits. The Call Center provides a single avenue for women Veterans to find the help they need,” said Krista Stephenson, Army Veteran and Women Veterans Call Center Director.

The Women Veterans Call Center is staffed by knowledgeable VA employees who provide information about benefits, eligibility, and services, including health care services for women Veterans. Women Veteran callers are linked to information about claims, education and health care, VA cemeteries and survivors’ benefits.

The Call Center staff is trained to answer basic questions and provide referrals to the appropriate people to answer the women’s questions. If there is an urgent matter, the Women Veterans Call Center connects the caller with the crisis line or homeless call center.

In addition to linking women Veterans to information, the Call Center makes direct referrals to WVPM located at every VA medical center. The Women Veteran Program Manager helps the woman Veteran navigate services.