WASHINGTON - For the past decade, America's veterans affairs hospitals and medical facilities have been overwhelmed with casualties of war.
Now, a new survey of the nation's female veterans finds the VA's care for women is lacking.
More than 200,000 women have fought or are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And despite efforts to keep them out of direct ground combat, the enemy's use of guerilla tactics routinely put women on the front lines.
But the recent American Legion survey found that only a quarter of America's 1.8 million female veterans take advantage of medical benefits available through the VA.
"Women who have been wounded, women who have lost limbs, women who suffer mentally and emotionally today because they chose to serve America," said Jimmie Foster, national commander for the American Legion.
One of the issues is privacy.
"Many female veterans don't feel safe in the care environment for simple concerns such as privacy. So, closing the door when the patient is in for exam, those are common sense things," said veteran Tracy Davis.
The study also found:
- 25 percent of women veterans said they're dissatisfied with the competence of VA health providers compared to private doctors.
- Nearly 40 percent are dissatisfied with the screening process for military sexual trauma, which is required for all vets receiving VA care.
- 38 percent said they wouldn't use a VA doctor for a second opinion, even if it was free.
The survey results also suggest there's lots of room for improvement to female specific care.
"Any primary care provider can do an annual pelvic exam, which is a really important exam, but do they do it? Are they comfortable doing it? Do the exam tables have stirrups? Those kind of things," Davis explained. "VA is moving in that direction."
The American Legion has vowed to use its study to make positive health care changes for the women who have served America with honor.