Navy veteran Julie Liss, 39, works for the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Spokane as the women veterans program manager. Her mission is to help women veterans navigate the VA health care system and access other resources. In a recent interview, Liss, a registered nurse, talked about the ongoing VA campaign to support women veterans.
Q.Why is it important to remember women veterans on Veterans Day?
A.Because they often feel that their sacrifices have been overlooked and ignored or stereotyped. Because the American public assumes that women know nothing of war. Because many women veterans constantly have to explain their roles in the military today – for example, they are not desk jockeys.
The role of women within the military has drastically changed. They are serving in combat areas. It bothers them that they are not recognized as running the supply lines or doing the nontraditional roles.
Q.Talk about your military service.
A.I was active duty for nine years, from ’88 to ’96, and then I joined the Navy Reserves. And then I was in active ready reserve the last few years. It’s a very different military than when I was active duty. When I got off active duty, we were just beginning to put women on aircraft carriers.
Q.What kind of services are available for women veterans at the VA?
A.Head-to-toe care – everything from their gynecological care to diabetic management. We provide maternity care through community partnerships. We provide mental health services. All of your preventive health care.
We have experienced a 14 percent increase in women who receive care at the Spokane VA in the last year. That’s the greatest single fiscal-year jump that we’ve had. In the country, it’s between 15 and 20 percent.
Q.What are the reasons for the increase?
A.There’s been recognition at the highest level that the role of the VA is to help veterans, particularly during that transition when they come home. I still think we have a long way to go. There are a significant amount of veterans we still need to reach.
Q.One rap on the VA everywhere is the long wait for services.
A.Our access times are actually 30 days or less. Which means you are to receive an appointment in 30 days or less with your primary care provider.
Q.What is your main message to women vets?
A.I would tell them the VA is a work in progress, and I need their help to move forward.