Veterans Day: Support equality for all veterans.

As the country reflects on veterans’ contributions this Veterans Day, we must acknowledge that not all veterans are recognized equally -- even by the military itself. Although they have served our country with just as much bravery and dedication as other veterans, the reality is that women and LGBTQIA veterans often don’t receive the same support after their service as cis-hetero male vets. Today’s #DailyRevolution is to advocate for equality for all veterans by telling your Congress members to support the Deborah Sampson Act, which would expand health care services for women veterans and address gender disparities at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

With more than 345,000 women deployed to overseas conflicts since 9/11, the total population of women vets is 2.3 million and counting. As a result, the number of women seeking care from the VA has increased by 80%, and health services for women veterans are majorly lacking, with a lack of private rooms and women’s restrooms, and a shortage of women’s health providers and mental health professionals -- a serious issue for the 1 in 4 women vets dealing with sexual assaults that occurred during their service. One survey, from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), found that only 22 percent of women veterans rated the VA’s support as good or improved.

IAVA launched the #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign earlier this year to improve recognition and services for women veterans. The organization is also calling on Congress to pass the Deborah Sampson Act, a bipartisan bill that’s named for a woman who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War. The Act would improve peer-to-peer assistance for women vets, increase access to legal services, mandate better data collection and reporting on gender disparities, and generally reduce barriers to care.

The Act also recommends but does not require the VA to modernize its motto to be more inclusive. Since 1959, the VA motto has been a quote from former President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

While prior year’s Veterans Day marketing campaigns used more inclusive language, the current administration has opted to revive Lincoln’s antiquated, sexist language for its Veterans Day promotional poster, and is totally unfazed by IAVA’s letter requesting a more modern motto that recognizes the contributions of women and gender nonconforming vets. Other military institutions have recognized the power of language in creating a welcoming culture, but a spokesman for the VA stated, “VA has the utmost respect for the service and sacrifice of all veterans, including women veterans. But Lincoln’s words are Lincoln’s words.” #SorryNotSorry

IAVA made it easy to contact your members of Congress to voice your support for the Deborah Sampson Act: Just click here, enter your name and zip code, and customize the contents of the suggested email script if you wish. The automated form will send an email directly to your senators and rep.  

November is Veterans Month, so stay tuned for more posts on equality for veterans.