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Columbia VA Health Care System's Women's Empowerment Group Offers Vital Support for Female Veterans

Female Veteran does a yoga pose during a Women's Empowerment Group meeting at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VAMC

In an effort to provide a supportive environment for female Veterans, the Columbia VA Health Care System’s (VAHCS) Women Veteran Program Manager, Rose Hutson, manages the Women's Empowerment Group to empower women Veterans through camaraderie and mutual support.

Hutson shared insights into the group and its significant impact on the lives of female Veterans within the Columbia VAHCS.

"The Women's Empowerment Group was born out of the recognition that female Veterans often feel more comfortable and open when surrounded by their peers," Hutson explained. "We wanted to create a space where women Veterans could come together without the presence of male counterparts and feel empowered to express themselves freely."

The primary objective of the group is to provide a safe haven for women Veterans to connect, share experiences, and uplift each other. "Our mission is to embrace the similarities and celebrate the differences among women Veterans while empowering each other as a cohesive unit," Hutson emphasized.

For many women in the Women’s Empowerment Group, this group provides just that. “This group is what I get up for on the first and third Wednesdays. We have a lot in common, and my friends on the outside who’ve never been in the military, if I’m dealing with something military or VA-wise they don’t understand me, but I can come here and feel at home” said Barbara Buckner, a U.S. Army Veteran. “When I’m down, I can call any of these ladies. When I caught COVID, they were by my side, they were the ones who kept up with me. I just feel like these girls are family.”

Through regular meetings, held both virtually and in person on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VAMC in Columbia, the group offers a range of activities and programs tailored to the needs of its members. These include yoga sessions, celebratory gatherings for holidays and anniversaries, and volunteering opportunities within the VA system.

The group also introduces a lot of women to benefits that they did not know were available to them through the VA. “There were benefits that I didn’t know about, and this group has given me so much information that I’ve never heard,” said U.S. Army Veteran, Ella Calvert. “[This group provides] camaraderie and friendships. These women have become my friends, my extended family, it’s almost like being in the military again, with a unit of women.”

Hutson highlighted a notable achievement of the group: their sponsorship of a woman Veteran and her family in need during the holiday season. "This initiative reflects our commitment to giving back to our fellow Veterans and supporting those facing challenges," she noted.

Beyond providing emotional support, the Women's Empowerment Group also focuses on the professional development of its members. By collaborating on various initiatives and missions, women Veterans have the opportunity to enhance their interpersonal skills and teamwork abilities.

Acknowledging the unique challenges faced by women within the VA system, Hutson emphasized the group's dedication to ensuring that no woman Veteran feels isolated. "We are committed to reaching out to every woman Veteran in need and letting them know they are not alone," she affirmed.

To further its mission, the group actively collaborates with other organizations and departments within the VA system. "Communication through the Program Manager facilitates our collaboration efforts, and we welcome suggestions from members for external collaborations," Hutson explained.

Looking ahead, the Women's Empowerment Group aims to expand its offerings and advocate for more women-focused events and groups within the Columbia VAHCS. "We envision initiatives such as women's groups in various service lines, including mental health support and recreational therapy," Hutson shared.

In conclusion, the Women's Empowerment Group at the Columbia VAHCS plays a crucial role in providing vital support and empowerment to female Veterans. Under the guidance of Coordinator Rose Hutson, the group continues to foster a sense of unity and resilience among women Veterans, ensuring they receive the care and support they deserve.

For comprehensive information on the services available to Veterans in and around Columbia, including clinic locations and more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Instagram (keyword: VAColumbiaSC) to stay up on the latest at the Columbia VAHCS.

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