Skip to Content

Women's Health newsletter - April 2024

We’d like to welcome you to our newsletter created especially for our female Veterans. The VA Women’s Health program strives to meet your diverse and special needs. We offer women’s health specialty clinics, timely health care, outreach programs and events. We are inspired to serve you every day as part of our mission. We honor you as a diverse, brave and resilient community of female Veterans.

Milwaukee VA marks 100th anniversary of health care for female Veterans

The Milwaukee VA Medical Center marked the 100th anniversary of health care for female Veterans with a Women’s Health Resource Fair. 

The event was held Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, in the Matousek Auditorium of the hospital, 5000 W. National Ave. 

On Sept. 14, 1923, the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the Veterans Health Administration’s origins) approved the first hospital spaces for female Veterans. At the time, there were approximately 52,000 female Veterans in America, 25 percent of whom were disabled and therefore eligible for care. 

The Milwaukee VA was one of the first two Veterans hospitals to admit female Veterans when a floor was reserved from them in the tuberculosis hospital of the Northwestern Branch (now the Milwaukee VA Medical Center). Around the same time, a separate building at the Danville Branch (now VA Illiana Health Care System) in Danville, Ill., was reserved for female Veterans who required general medical treatment.

Over the years, VA continued to invest in improving access and quality of care for female Veterans. Services now include gynecological care, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling and menopause management, among others. Moreover, VA recognizes the unique challenges faced by female Veterans in terms of military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and is focused on enhancing mental health support to address these issues effectively. 

Female Veterans make up the fastest-growing segment of the Veteran population, with over 2 million female Veterans living in the United States today. 

“Their service and sacrifice deserve our utmost respect, appreciation and unwavering commitment to their well-being,” said Katie Wisniewski, Women Veterans Program Manager at the Milwaukee VA. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to further improving health care delivery for female Veterans.”

Breast Cancer Awareness Walk 2023

The event, which took place Oct. 6, 2023, was kicked off by our Nurse Executive, Tandria Williams who is a breast cancer
survivor. We had over 250 participants, including Veterans, staff and community members who pledged to speak to their doctor about annual screenings, any abnormalities and concerns they have. The local news media came and shared the day with us and I just wanted to share that with you.

Breast cancer screening and the SERVICE Act

Unless Veterans are determined to be at high risk, it is recommended to begin mammography at age 40-45 and continue every year until age 54. Screenings should be every other year after that. 

The SERVICE Act ensures that all Veterans exposed to burn pits while deployed, and those who may have had other toxic exposures while serving on active duty, will have breast cancer risk assessments and mammography screenings and follow up care, as needed. 

“While no direct link has been found between toxic exposure and breast cancer, VA is concerned about tragic individual cases and is continuing to carefully examine the data,” said Katie Wisniewski, Women Veterans Program Manager, said. “Veterans who had a toxic exposure and are concerned about their risk should talk to their health care provider.

"One in eight women will have breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer has a 99% survival rate if detected early. Getting screened is an important part of maintaining your overall health and could save your life.”

The SERVICE Act aligns with the PACT Act by addressing potential exposure related health conditions. Veterans who would like to learn more should visit  The PACT Act And Your VA Benefits | Veterans Affairs.

To learn more about Milwaukee VA health services for female Veterans, contact the Women Veterans Program at , or the national Women Veterans Call Center at .

Gynecology Nursing Navigator

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Olivia, RN and I am your Gynecology Nursing Navigator here at the Clement J. Zablocki Women’s Health Department. What does that mean? I coordinate the cares of all your gynecological, reproductive health, and fertility cares. 

One area that has been a hot topic since I have taken on this role has been fertility/ infertility. It is confusing. It is hard to follow. It is, admittedly, a little hard to follow sometimes. If you are faced with the hard reality that you are having troubles conceiving, dealing with the fertility services available to you at the Zablocki VA can be completely and utterly stressful. But that is where I step in. I am here to hopefully take some of the stress off you and help you navigate all the red tape and questions you must go through. 

If you are faced with issues conceiving and are wondering if you are eligible for any VA benefits with regards to infertility, I have developed some quick points for you.

  • ALL enrolled Veterans are eligible for a fertility assessment, evaluation, and treatment. 
    • This means, as a Veteran, you are eligible to speak to one of our gynecologists, who will assess you and run laboratory tests to determine if you are, in fact, infertile.
    • This also means there are medications that can be prescribed that can aide in obtaining a positive pregnancy test that will also be covered.
  • If you are diagnosed with infertility, to be eligible for VA benefits, you MUST have a service-connected condition that directly connects to your diagnosis of infertility. 
    • An example of this would be trauma to your reproductive organs, or a medication used to treat a service-connected condition that affects your hormones.
    • You MUST be legally married to qualify for any service-connected infertility services.
    • A marriage certificate MUST be on file with the VHA enrollment office.
  • Only a small group of Veterans who meet specific criteria are eligible for service-connected infertility services. 
    • This is under VHA Directive 1334 that was determined by law in 2016 and can only be changed with additional legislation by Congress.
  • You and your legal spouse must be able to use your own sperm/eggs and have a patent uterus to carry the pregnancy. 
    • The VA will not provide any coverage for donor sperm/eggs and/or surrogacy.
  • Female Veterans are typically evaluated by one of our gynecologists, and male Veterans are typically evaluated by the urology/endocrinology team to determine a diagnosis of infertility.
    • Unfortunately, if your diagnosis of infertility is NOT caused by a service-connected condition, you are no longer eligible for further infertility services.
  • If you decide to further pursue infertility treatment you MAY still qualify for some medication coverage.
    • I know it is a lot to take in, and it is confusing. I am here to help and answer as many questions as I can. Please reach out to me anytime Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. We will work together to get you the most and best care we can. Always remember: #youbelonghere and #strongertogether.

Gynecology services

Our comprehensive gynecology clinic offers help for a wide range of health issues:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Pelvic pain
  • Contraception
  • Gynecologic cancers
  • Menopausal support (hormone replacement therapy)
  • In-house infertility care
  • Follow-up for abnormal cervical cancer screenings
  • Referrals to community infertility specialists for further testing and treatment if needed

Veterans interested in gynecology services should contact their VA care provider.

Safe settings and trusted care for female Veterans

You belong at VA – where you have options for how you receive your care
By Dr. Lynette Adams, Office of Women’s Health

VA understands that traumatic experiences may affect the lives and health of many women Veterans before, during and after military service. You have access to trauma-informed care at VA. Our health care staff are specifically trained to help you feel comfortable and safe at every appointment, in each exam room, and across all VA medical facilities. 

What is trauma-informed care? 

Trauma is defined as events or circumstances experienced by an individual resulting in physical, emotional, or life-threatening harm, with adverse effects on your mental, physical, and emotional health, as well as your social and/or spiritual well-being. 

Trauma-informed care means that your provider understands and acknowledges the role this trauma may play in your life and is committed to enhancing your care by working to establish your feelings of safety, trust, choice, collaboration, and empowerment during health care visits. We pay close attention to your preferences and to the physical environment, and work to deliver care with absolute support and compassion. 

How does trauma-informed care apply to my health care? 

VA exam rooms are safe spaces where you may choose to let your provider know about what you have experienced. VA health care providers are trained to know how different traumatic experiences may affect your health, health care needs, and your experience with the health care system. They are particularly sensitive to traumas that may be related to military service. 

When you visit a VA medical facility, VA health care staff consider several core principles of trauma-informed care. To help you feel safe and comfortable during your visits. Your care will include the following:

  • You can request a certain gender for your provider.
  • You can request a chaperoned appointment.
  • Your provider will explain every step of exams and give you the option to stop at any point.
  • You will be able to sit where you prefer and stay as covered up as you like, when possible.
  • You can request a telehealth appointment in the comfort of your home.

Why does this matter? 

Providing women Veterans with trauma-informed care will result in a more supportive and collaborative relationship with your health care team. This will enhance the care you receive and allow us to directly address your health-related questions and concerns. If you have experiences with trauma that may be affecting your health (e.g., high blood pressure, problems with sleep, chronic pain) we can help connect you to the right treatment and resources. 

We can also connect you with a mental health provider who can work with you on stress management, coping strategies, or to talk about the impact of trauma on your life. When you feel comfortable to do so, address your trauma and health concerns with your provider.

You belong at VA, where you have options in how you receive your care: 

Call or text 1-855-VA-WOMEN to connect with care you can trust or speak with your VA health care team about your options. 


Listen to our recent "She Wears the Boots" podcast episode "Supporting Veterans Who Have Experienced Trauma" to hear from Dr. Lynette Adams of VHA Office of Women’s Health. You’ll learn about how trauma can affect your health and well-being, how VA supports Veterans who have experienced trauma, and what to do if you have concerns.


Health care after pregnancy

We know life after pregnancy can get pretty hectic and it can be tough to prioritize you first. Whether it’s the lack of sleep that comes with being a new parent, or the emotional toll that pregnancy or pregnancy loss can have on your mental health, VA gets it. 

We provide a variety of health care services during and after pregnancy and consider the unique needs that may come with being a Veteran, so you receive health care that is tailored to you. In the months after giving birth or experiencing pregnancy loss, you may experience a tremendous amount of change and responsibility, all while dealing with your body’s physical recovery. We can help. 

VA plays a crucial role in providing health care after pregnancy by creating a personalized care plan and connecting you to services that are most helpful for your situation. Your health care team is here to support you physically and mentally, so you can achieve your best health. 

Care coordination and support 

Every VA offers maternity care coordinators who are with you every step of the way. Whether helping you navigate postpartum health care options, connecting you to resources or answering your questions, we’ve got you covered. 

Connection to primary care 

At VA, the health care you receive after pregnancy is just as important as your prenatal care. Your primary care team is here to support you in physical recovery from birth (including pelvic floor recovery) and health maintenance through routine exams and check-ups to make sure you regain your strength. 

Changes in health 

You may have developed health conditions (like high blood pressure) that you didn’t have before pregnancy, or you may have experienced complications during pregnancy or birth. VA will help you manage any new or existing conditions so you can keep your health on track while you get back to everyday life.

Mental health resources

Your mental health matters. VA knows not every pregnancy journey is a smooth one. And we understand the impact your military career may have had on your mental health. We support your mental well-being before, during and after pregnancy through:

  • Mental health check-ins and counseling
  • Resources for miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss
  • Support for other factors that may affect your mental wellness, like trouble feeding, substance use or sexual health

VA recognizes the importance of both physical and mental health after pregnancy and we aim to support your overall health and happiness. No matter what your journey looks like following a pregnancy, we’re here for you at every turn. 

Let’s create a health care plan together! Learn about the services available to you at or talk to your Maternity Care Coordinators Allison Pelis, ext. 41477, or Kelsey Hills, ext. 44604, or VA health care team. 

You can also call or text the Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-VA-WOMEN for more information.

Lung health

Women Veterans, taking a deep breath should be effortless. Whether you’re worried about potential exposures during military service, smoking or vaping, or the air you breathe today, talk with your VA health care team about you A new law expands VA health care benefits if you were exposed to toxic substances while serving. The PACT Act brings major change to VA by:

  • Expanding and extending eligibility for VA health care and benefits for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and Post-9/11 eras.
  • Adding more presumptive conditions.
  • Requiring VA to provide you with a toxic exposure screening.

Breathe better. Visit our lung health page for more information and get connected to care. 

Lung Health - Women Veterans Health Care (

Intimate Partner Violence

The VA cares about Veterans affected by Intimate Partner Violence. Intimate Partner Violence is a public health problem that affects Veterans at a high rate. The VA Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP) serves Veterans, family members and VA employees affected by Intimate Partner Violence.

IPVAP promotes relationship health and wellness. The program aids healing and growth for Veterans dealing with IPV. IPVAP aims to reduce conflict, support health, and improve health and quality of life. All of these are necessary for good physical and mental health.

We encourage Veterans, their partners, and VA staff to talk with their local IPVAP Coordinator for available resources and services. Together we can make a difference.

Please contact Andrea Knowlton, LCSW, for more information:

Your Opinion Matters

Partner with us to shape the Women’s Health program in the future. Join us for our focus group held every three months.

Your opinions, ideas and feelings matter. We value your feedback to help us improve the program to better meet your needs.

Email us to be placed on our list if you like future notifications:

Stay in touch with the latest news.

Tell us about your experience

VA provides quality health care to our national Veterans, and we are committed to Owning the Moment to make every encounter a positive patient experience! Your feedback is essential in helping your VA serve you better. You may receive a short survey from VA asking about your experience if you provided your email address.

Benefits of surveys:

  • Submissions are “real-time” allowing us to see your feedback quickly.
  • We are able to make things right if we did not meet your expectations.
  • Patient feedback on employees improves morale and recognition opportunities.

You may receive surveys for your experience in the following areas:

  • Outpatient Primary Care
  • Outpatient Specialty Care Community Care
  • Emergency Medical Care
  • Telehealth Care
  • COVID-19

Have concerns about your experience? Our Milwaukee VA has a Patient Advocate Office that can help with:

  • Hospital policy and procedure
  • Concerns
  • Compliments
  • Recommendations for improvement

Advocates are available by phone Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
or (toll free) 1-


Veterans Crisis Line
Dial 988, press 1

Community Care Scheduling

Community Care Billing

Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)

Women Veterans Call Center

Women Veterans Program Manager