Female veteran works to bridge the gap in care for female veterans.

Lauren Warner
December 15, 2018 - 11:35 pm

Photo courtesy of Destinee Prete

With a rising population of female veterans, the gap in care and support continues to increase. 

Numerous groups including IAVA have dedicated their time to campaigns such as #SheWhoBorneTheBattle, focusing on recognizing the service of women veterans and finding ways to close the gaps in care provided (most notably) by the VA. With 345,000 (and counting) women serving in Post 9/11 conflicts, the Department of Veterans Affairs has seen an 80% increase in women seeking care. While the foundation of care is there, the level of care is not on par with the rest of what the VA has to offer. The Deborah Sampson Act, developed to fight for both healthcare improvements and recognition of female veterans' service, is just one organization's efforts to make sure female veterans are not overlooked. 

Image courtesy of IAVA

The lack of studies and research on caring for women veterans means there is a lot of catching up to do and no one organization, or person, can do it on their own. One veteran, in particular, chose to get involved by focusing her doctoral research on the veteran transition process---  specifically for females. 

"I have always had a very profound connection to the military and a strong desire to help and lead others," says Destinee Prete, P.h.D candidate & Army vet. "I have been affiliated with the military my entire life."

From life as an Army brat to joining Army ROTC to becoming a military spouse herself, Prete served four years as a Medical Corps Officer and chose to continue helping veterans by becoming a Certified Veteran Developmental Coach (CVDC), working as a career counselor for the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP).  She currently serves as a Site Lead for VA Benefits Advisors in her local area. 

Photo courtesy of Destinee Prete

Inspired to help others by continuing her education, Prete has a background in psychology, and she dedicated the last six years of her doctoral journey to veteran transition research.

"In my research, I have noticed a very large gap in female veteran studies and research," explains Prete. "In particular, there is scarcely any research on the Post 9/11 female veteran population, which is a demographic that is anticipated to double over the next decade."

She noted that with a rising population of female veterans, a population that has seen many ‘firsts’ in its history, and with little understanding of the challenges of transition and reintegration into the civilian ‘world,’ she felt compelled to learn more. Her thesis topic is specifically titled: 'The Post 9/11 female veteran workforce transition experience: A multiple case study.'

Image courtesy of Destinee Prete

"As a Post 9/11 female veteran myself, and also being very intertwined in the transition space, I knew that there would be a lot to be said and heard when it comes to the challenges faced," says Prete. "Not only have I experienced my own challenges, but many of my friends and fellow female veterans who have reached out to me have given me insight along their transition journey. I have been given an opportunity to give voice and offer recommendations on behalf of the population and I am truly humbled and excited."

In the past few weeks, Prete has interviewed 11 Post-911 female veterans, gaining a quick spotlight into each of their transition experiences. One of the most prominent themes in the interviews is the overwhelming feeling of a lack of recognition as a veteran. The women Prete has spoken to told stories about their treatment and lack of inclusion. 

"One woman told me, 'I feel like Veterans’ Day is a man’s day. For example, this Veteran’s day our local exchange was giving away free haircuts, so I went in to see what it was all about. When I showed up, they told me it was just for men. I was surprised and honestly hurt…’" says Prete. "Another story came from a female veteran with a disabled veteran license plate cover. She told me that when she and her husband get out of the car, strangers always thank her husband for his service even though the disabled veteran plates are hers. Many gave me examples of others thanking their husbands/spouses and not them because they didn’t ‘recognize’ them as being veterans."

In early April, Prete will present in a session on ‘Veteran Identity and Transition Symposium’ alongside other I/O psychologists and practitioners to educate leaders, fellow practitioners and psychologists on her study findings in hopes of ensuring these identified challenges and recommendations get into the hands and ears of those who can make a true difference.  

Image courtesy of Destinee Prete

Prete also emphasized that while the veteran unemployment rates appear to be at their lowest, female veteran unemployment continues to remain higher than both male and their non-veteran counterparts.

"There is so much work to be done in this space," says Prete. "I have a lot of ideas and thoughts stemming from my interactions and research and look forward to continuing to make advances in my research and influence the way that female veterans are cared for throughout and after the transition process."

Image courtesy of Destinee Prete

If you are a female veteran (or know one) who would like to share her story, click here to send us a note.


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