Female Veterans Struggle to Access Health Care in Olmsted County

May 15, 2018 11:29 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- They are ready to give it their all to protect our country, but after serving, life after the military can be challenging.

To help combat those problems, staff members of Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., held a first even of its kind Rochester geared toward women veterans.


“In some aspects, women don't see themselves as a veteran,” said Jennifer Shumaker with Olmsted County Veteran's Services.

Women who have served the armed forces sometimes face different challenges than men.

“When you say that word veteran, most people think 'Oh that's my grandpa who served in WWII’,” Shumaker said.

She was sent on two active duty tours during her 26-year career with the Minnesota National Guard.

Shumaker says health care access is one of the biggest issues for female veterans in Olmsted County. “There’s one small clinic here in Rochester which is an amazing place, but its catering to all of the surrounding sleep towns, all of the small agencies in the area as well. Not just the agencies in Olmsted County.”

That can translate into a lack of care.

Tuesday evening, Smith's staff held an outreach session focusing on military women.

“Child care, accessing health care because we know some of those are different. Then also sexual trauma,” said Bree Maki, the Southern Minnesota Outreach Director.  “Our job is really to uncover those things and bring awareness to the issues we need to.”

About 11 percent of veterans in Olmsted County are women.

Smith’s message from Washington D.C., “We know that a veterans battles don't leave the military and come home”.

Staff said they will be taking the information gathered to Smith, ensuring women veterans have a voice on Capitol Hill.

Olmsted County Veteran's Services is hosting its second annual Women Veterans gala to honor their service.  More than 100 veterans will be recognized.


Hannah Tiede

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