VA prodded to give more aid to female veterans

Kristine Wise remembers driving from San Diego to Victorville, Calif., to visit her brother and seeing haunting messages on the freeway…

By Tony Perry
Los Angeles Times

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Kristine Wise remembers driving from San Diego to Victorville, Calif., to visit her brother and seeing haunting messages on the freeway signs. Instead of the speed limit or the miles to the next town, she envisioned: Beware of Snipers. Watch Out for Bombs. 40 miles to Baghdad. Death Ahead. “It was horrible,” said Wise, who served in Iraq with the Army in 2003 and 2004.  The disturbing images are part of the anxiety and panic attacks she has suffered since serving as a supply clerk just as the insurgency was becoming proficient at killing Americans, with roadside bombs and suicide attacks.  In Iraq, her depression ran so deep that she wrote a suicide poem: “The pressure is too great / I’m going to crack and fall apart / … My casket is now fully covered, it looks nice.”  Sent back to Germany, Wise received psychiatric and medical treatment before she was honorably discharged in 2004, two years early.  Now 40 and a student at California State University, San Marcos, she is part of a growing phenomenon: women who have been traumatized by military service.  The number of female veterans being treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs has doubled in recent years and is expected to double again within a decade. The swift demographic change has prompted some veterans’ advocates to assert that the VA has not responded adequately to women’s mental and physical health-care needs.   read more

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