Change comes to Veterans Affairs hospitals

Roughly 6,000 female veterans in Dallas-Fort Worth get medical care from Veterans Affairs.

They represent 6 percent of the patients in the Fort Worth outpatient clinic and Dallas hospital, but the trend is definitely heading north. The VA expects to serve 18,000 North Texas women within five to 10 years, in part because Texas has the second-most female veterans of any state.

The growing number of female veterans, including many with combat experience and some with debilitating injuries, has led the Veterans Affairs Department to re-engineer some of its services to a population that was largely unfamiliar to the VA system in the past.

The Fort Worth outpatient clinic, for example, opened a women's clinic, led by a female internist, in its new building last fall and has integrated cervical exams, mammography and sexual trauma therapy into its clinical options.

"Certainly there is demand," said Assistant VA Secretary L. Tammy Duckworth. "For the first time in our nation's history, we have combat veterans giving birth. We have found that women veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan use the VA at far higher rates than any other demographic group. ... We've come a long way in the last two years. We have a lot more work to do, but we've made tremendous progress."

Duckworth, 43, herself is Exhibit A of the changing face of the warrior and veteran. She flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in the Illinois National Guard and was grievously wounded in Iraq in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cockpit. She had both legs amputated and lost partial use of one arm.

She was in North Texas last week for a national VA conference on equal employment and spoke with the Star-Telegram for about 40 minutes.

Read the complete story at