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November 12, 2012

Official: Female veterans overlooked

State strives to meet needs of women returning from service


Earlier this year, the state opened a new Women’s Health Clinic at the VA Center in Bedford, which includes private waiting rooms for women, primary health care, mental health and OB/GYN care.

Don Silva, of Lawrence, finance officer and claims service officer of Queen City Chapter #2 of the Disabled American Veterans, said he sees a need for greater involvement by women veterans.

“That’s always been the tendency in the past — few women in military service seldom participate in veterans organizations. They join, but seldom participate,” Silva said.

“It’s all based on membership participation. If you don’t have membership participation, you don’t have a strong voice. The DAV goes out of its way to help women veterans, but the women veterans have also got to participate.” he said.

Silva said a good percentage of veterans claims that his volunteer group assisted in filing involve women.

“Out of 40 claims we have serviced since June, probably about a third are women, recently discharged and returning veterans right up to spouses of World War II and Korean War veterans,” Silva said.

“Women’s veterans and widows of deceased veterans. You’ve got to include the spouses because they are important in this mess,” he said.

Silva said he sees progress, though.

The state DAV elected the first woman to be its state commander, Anita Reed.

Also, for the first time, this year, the Chelsea Soldiers Home is accepting women as residents, he noted.

“That was always a man’s institution,” he said.

“Thank God we have a bunch of guys now who are open-minded. You can’t be close-minded to women veterans,” he said.

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