Women constitute a growing segment of the military veteran population and researchers have begun to examine the extent to which their mental health needs are appropriately addressed within the Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system. Existing research documents high rates of both military and non-military trauma among female veterans; however, little has been done to examine the extent to which female veterans exposed to trauma receive treatment for trauma-related problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse within the VA system. This article reviews the literature documenting a high rate of trauma exposure among female veterans and examines evidence that trauma-related mental health problems, such as PTSD and substance-use problems, are under-diagnosed and under-treated among female veterans in VA healthcare settings. The few available studies examining general service utilization among female veterans are also reviewed, and implications for future research and clinical practice in the area of female veterans' trauma-related mental health needs and service use patterns are discussed. In order to provide more accurate assessments of female veterans' trauma-related mental health needs, researchers are encouraged to implement comprehensive trauma assessments as well as clinically valid PTSD and substance abuse diagnostic assessments. Researchers are also encouraged to examine the availability and efficacy of both VA and non-VA mental health services to determine the appropriateness of women's VA service use patterns. Clinicians providing VA mental health services for women are encouraged to include comprehensive, behaviorally-specific trauma interviews and diagnostic evaluations for PTSD and substance-related problems in their standard assessment protocols.
- Female veterans
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Service utilization
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health