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Yesterday, Senator Warner met with women veterans in Hampton and Richmond to discuss the recent release of a study [PDF] that showed women are much more likely than male veterans to be denied care for PTSD. 

"The fact is, we can do better by women who've served in combat roles," Senator Warner told the Virginian-Pilot.

In 2009, Senator Warner successfully amended a defense appropriations bill to direct the V-A inspector general to examine the gender differences in the prevalence and diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other combat-related conditions.

The study, released in mid-December 2010, showed that the V-A needs to work harder to inform women of services available to them, and needs to train staff to deal with the specific problems that face women in combat.

During the study, the V-A identified and corrected one of the biggest obstacles facing women who need care for PTSD: the requirement that they have served in direct combat. However, due to the unique nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Senator Warner had heard that more Virginia vets without direct combat experience were experiencing traumatic events and stress.  The V-A will now allow any veteran that served in a combat zone to apply for help with PTSD.

“The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have clearly demonstrated the dramatic changes in our traditional definitions of ‘combat’ and exactly what constitutes a ‘military front,’” Senator Warner said.  “Because of repeated deployments and the randomness of roadside bombs, the battle lines have blurred and everyone is, in effect, serving on the front lines. It is not fair that women veterans have had to work even harder when they returned home to prove they saw combat simply to access the benefits, services and treatment they have earned.”

As a next step, Senator Warner has sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, urging him to take swift action on the problems identified in the study.

Senator Warner told WTVR in Richmond:

“I think we’ve kind of lifted some of that veil over the very real challenges about PTSD. That was one step forward. Now we’re trying to take on this next step of making sure that our female veterans get the credit, the benefits, and the respect they deserve.”