PTSD of Women Veterans

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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The exposure of women to stressors during military deployment leads to higher risks for veterans, resulting in poor quality of life post-military service. Stress-related issues may result in decreased quality of life within family and work domains. However, very few studies have focused on this matter. This paper explores the mental health of veteran women in comparison to their male counterparts. It also examines trauma cases within the male and female veteran populations in the US and the proportion of women in the military.

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Women constitute over 5% of the entire veteran population. The paper further illustrates the population of women veterans in the U.S.; it is observed that this population is projected to increase to 1.9 million by the end of 2020. The history of female veterans in the U.S., which includes a clear explanation of women’s involvement in the military forces, is also explored. The methodology involves the use of sampling to obtain respondents. The study is expected to be completed within a one-month timeline. Finally, the limitations of the study are addressed in the paper.

Chapter one: Introduction

As the number of issues concerning mental health in female veterans continues to rise, it’s important to recognize that male veterans also grapple with such concerns. However, the current generation of female veterans may face unique and novel mental health threats (Burns et al., 2014). Traditionally, males in military service have struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to experiences within war zones. In contrast, as women expand their roles into combat operations, they are also increasingly likely to face similar issues. This represents both a challenge and an opportunity to adapt to these new conditions and experiences within military services. Clinicians often note that the responsiveness of female patients to psychotherapy differs from that of males (Suris & Linda, 2008). It is also recognized that the treatment of PTSD is significantly impacted by previous experiences of sexual trauma. Female veterans possess unique military experiences and pre-military histories composed of mental health care needs and post-military physical services. Therefore, the successful treatment of female veterans necessitates a comprehensive understanding of the need to address and reduce instances of sexual trauma (Jacobson, et al., 2015).


The percentage of women in the United States army force has greatly increased from four percent in 1983 to twelve percent in 2000. By 2010, the percent of women veterans in the United States constituted five percent of the entire veteran population (Burns et al., 2014). In the next ten years, the percentage of women veterans is expected to increase compared to the current status. The significant increase in the percentage of active women in the army began in the 1990s when a policy was implemented that allowed equal and full opportunity for women to serve in the United States military (Burns et al., 2014). Despite the Veterans Administration’s provision of mental health and health care to all army veterans, at least eighty-three percent of United States female veterans chose to get health care services from various civilian health centers due to the perceived notion that the Veterans Administration is only for male veterans (Fetzer & Bjorklund, 2009). However, civilian health care centers often struggle to cater to the special needs of women veterans, which can lead to trauma while in service. Therefore, it is a matter of concern for both the Veterans Administration and civilian health care personnel to understand the various problems affecting this vulnerable population (Burns et al., 2014).

Problems statement

Higher levels of sexual trauma are mostly found within the general public, and the presence of sexual and duty-related stress in many veteran females also indicates a higher potential for PTSD. In the military forces, women have long been considered a minority, just as in all other occupations. As a result of women being the minority in most occupations, there is always a greater risk of gender-related hazards they are likely to face, compared to males. For instance, “military sexual trauma” is predominantly faced by women. Research on female veterans increased by 1990, where “military sexual trauma” and posttraumatic stress were prominently identified. Posttraumatic stress disorder is a chronic disorder that is complicated by various traumatic situations such as stress. Furthermore, traumatic situations are often characterized by various symptoms such as intrusion, sleep disturbances, recurrence, impaired social functioning, and occupational difficulties. Military stressors consist of living difficulties and threats in the working environment (Pencak, 2009).

Specific research question

“To what extent do post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual identity affect women veterans?”

Chapter two: Literature review

As a result of the continuous growth of women veterans, there are various obstacles in identifying the veterans. Therefore, issues affecting veterans will be looked at. This literature review is aimed at presenting the history of female veterans who were involved in military forces. In addition, the literature will illustrate the population of veterans and the current initiative for veteran women. In brief, the literature review will also illustrate various problems faced by the female veterans, such as PTSD (Haskell et al., 2010).

The history of female veterans in the U.S

The documented information of women who served in the military services started well back in the 18th century during the American Revolution. In America, the “Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) Memorial” is the main national memorial that honors women veterans through the military history of the US (Haskell et al., 2010). In addition, the veterans’ bravery and patriotism are part of the United States’ collective effort which recognizes all the veterans by filming, exhibiting, and registering the memory of women veterans. Notably, over three million women in the United States have served in the military over the course of two hundred and fifty years. Over 258,000 women veterans are recorded in the memorial register. Also, U.S. women veterans are often referred to as “invisible Veterans” because their military service was not recognized until the early 1970s (Haskell et al., 2010).

Politicians, academia, the general public, and the media did not recognize the services of women in the military prior to the 1970s. Because of their patriotism, women volunteered to serve in the US military, risking their lives and adhering to the rules of the military forces (Suris and Lind, 2008).

The women in the army did all this without any protection or benefits. Despite women’s service in the U.S. army for an extended period of time, their services have not been recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs in the provision of various veteran benefits. Even if women veterans were granted their status, they still face problems such as inadequate health care services, exclusion, and limited access to various veteran services (Foster & Vince, 2009).

The population of women veterans

The percentage of women serving in U.S. military forces greatly affects the percentage of the nation’s women veterans. The number of veterans depends on the size of people moving out of the military forces at that time (Zinzow et al., 2007). Over the last decade, the number of female veterans has increased compared to males due to the high number of women joining the military forces. In addition, a more conducive survival rate for military women compared to men increases the propensity for women to join the army. It’s important to note, women veterans are relatively younger compared to men. According to the 1990 U.S. census, there were around twelve million women veterans. By 2000, the number of women veterans had already increased to sixteen million. Thus, the trend indicates that the number of women veterans is continuously increasing and by 2020 it may be around nineteen million (Zinzow et al., 2007).

Problems faced by female veterans

As a result of the growing number of women veterans in the U.S., there has been an increase in the number of issues faced by such a population. Notably, most of the problems affecting female veterans are a result of the negligence by the Veterans Administration to address such issues (Zinzow et al., 2007). Therefore, the problems faced by veteran women in the U.S. include the following: First, Military Sexual Trauma (MST); this is sexual harassment or assault experienced during military service. Most studies have indicated that MST is a major issue faced by both female soldiers in service and veterans. Importantly, sexual harassment and assault create a stressful environment for soldiers. In the military, women are often considered the minority over the male population, to whom they are responsible for reporting MST. Therefore, female veterans and soldiers have long faced the MST problem (Zinzow et al., 2007).

Second, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); this is not a new problem in the U.S military as it has affected many women. Among 94 U.S. female veterans, 25% of them have experienced PTSD. Notably, most female veterans are at a higher risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, not because of the nature of their work, but the people they work with. Therefore, veteran women are at higher risks of PTSD compared to their exposure to combat or war (Haskell et al., 2010).

Third, high risks of committing suicide; suicide is common among women veterans. This is often due to greater issues of poor health and risky behaviors. The percentage of women who committed suicide is estimated at 35% between 2006 and 2013. Additionally, most women veterans find difficulties in transitioning to civilian life, hence forcing them to commit suicide (Haskell et al., 2010).

Lastly, homelessness; most of the U.S. female veterans face a problem of homelessness. This has long been a priority despite the VA considering the efforts of women so as to support them. Additionally, women veterans are often excluded from various studies aimed at addressing the issue of homelessness (American Civil Liberties Union, 2013). This is due to the differences between female and male veterans. The rate of U.S. women veterans who face the problem of homelessness is four times that compared to civilians. The issue of homelessness for women veterans needs immediate attention because the population of female veterans is increasing daily. The high rate of homelessness among U.S. women veterans is considered to be a result of limited information concerning the availability of different services (American Civil Liberties Union, 2013).

Current women veteran initiatives

The VA has continued to make sure that women veterans are a priority in the U.S. Army by increasing their accessibility and quality of services by implementing various education campaigns that majorly target veteran women. With the help of various surveys, the VA has focused on addressing the needs of women Veterans (Pencak, 2009). It’s worth noting that the population of women has continuously increased, thereby creating more attention for veteran women who need assistance. In addition, the VA has implemented various initiatives in different areas to ensure that women veterans receive high-quality care and services. Furthermore, all the VA medical facilities have distinct programs for female veterans aimed at assisting and advising women veterans to attain optimal health care services. Additionally, the VA announced its plan to prevent and end homelessness among women veterans. The aim of this implementation was to improve the well-being of women veterans (Pencak, 2009).

Education and outreach: in this case, the VA is ensuring it improves the outreach of all female veterans by featuring them in different VA brochures, posters, marketing materials, and messages. The VA organization created a platform for all women veterans with the intent of improving their outreach (Brown, 2013). Additionally, women veterans have been involved in various educational services teaching them about their services and benefits for which they are eligible. There have also been monthly campaigns conducted to create awareness among women veterans about their healthcare rights. The major aim of education and outreach is to reduce the barriers between the VA and women veterans. It’s worth noting, most of the U.S. veterans do not identify themselves as veterans, subsequently affecting their ability to claim their VA resources and benefits (Bell et al., 2014).

Chapter three: Methodology

For this study, veteran women who have served in the military for a number of decades and have been involved in various wars will be sampled. The case study will help in obtaining more knowledge about the topic under investigation, making it more conceivable (Grubaugh et al., 2009). In addition, the case study will involve real-life examples to obtain a clear understanding of the women veterans and to apply the necessary skills and knowledge about their problems. The use of case studies is frequently recommended in order to investigate a given problem and obtain answers to the research question. Therefore, the detailed information about the research question will be clearly illustrated in the chapter.

Data collection methods

Research data will be gathered using questionnaires and interview methods of data collection. In this case, questionnaires will be provided to different research participants containing various questions about the topic under investigation. Furthermore, various U.S. women veterans will be interviewed to obtain the necessary research information. However, different literature may also be reviewed to obtain accurate information about the research question.


The research will involve around 20 female U.S. veteran participants who will be required to provide information about post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual identity among women veterans. The participants will be randomly sampled from the VA register. In this case, the sampled participants will be given questionnaires containing various information about post-traumatic stress disorder among female veterans. In addition, the participants will also be interviewed about their response/experience with military sexual trauma.

Data analysis

The research data will be analyzed using multiple regression analysis and other computer software programs, like SPSS, Excel, and Stata, to determine the impact of the independent variable on the dependent variables.

Social Impact of Study:

Over the past decade, various racial and gender stereotypes have been identified, although veterans’ issues have remained largely unnoticed until now. Most people imagine men wearing Marine Corps T-shirts, or observe male troops marching in parades with the American veteran’s flag. Typically, more attention is given to men who have fought in, or served in, the army than to women, about whom little is known (Kaplan et al., 2009). As a result, the percentage of women in the military is smaller compared to that of men. This disparity is often reason to overlook the role of women in the military. Consequently, women in the army are perceived as the minority, and men as the majority. However, this mindset has shifted, with women now appearing in military brochures and commercials. Despite their inclusion in various services, the representation of women in military forces remains limited (Carlson et al., 2013).


The research will only take one month to obtain all the required information. In this case, the first week will involve looking for various organizations with the required information. In addition, the second week will involve finding the best literature about the topic (Candice et al., 2009). This will also involve the identification of the problem, carrying out the feasibility study, and determining specific requirements. The remaining two weeks will involve compiling all the required or obtained information about the topic under study (Kintzle et al., 2015).


The issue of PTSD among female veterans is not an old phenomenon. It is important to note that very little is known concerning the unique issues and needs of female veterans, as well as the overall needs of other women in military service. In addition, difficulties may be encountered when trying to find the right respondents (Kaiser et al., 2012). In this case, most respondents may fear providing the required information as they may be unwilling to be interviewed and recorded. Also, some respondents may find it difficult to recount their life experiences and family situations. Furthermore, many of the respondents may find it hard to talk about their experiences in the war and trauma (Guerra et al., 2010).

Moreover, it may be difficult to find a veteran with the needed information as people have various perspectives about trauma (Gallegos et al., 2015). It may also be challenging to develop the best questionnaires to be used to acquire the necessary information from respondents. As a result of limited resources, less data will be obtained (Jakupcak et al., 2011). Most methods may not be viable as they require more time than may be available. Furthermore, some literature reviews may not be obtained because they contain many details, which are less relevant to the research question. Also, expanding specific research fields may not be feasible as they require lots of data in order to yield quality information (Burns et al., 2014).

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PTSD of Women Veterans. (2020, Jan 03). Retrieved from