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Women Veterans Health Care

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100 Years of Health Care for Women Veterans

Women have contributed to the U.S. military since the time of the American Revolution. They bravely served in combat, often disguising themselves as men during the American Revolution and Civil War, and also played essential roles on the front lines in both World Wars.

In 1919, the authorization for hospitalization and medical care for women who served as Army or Navy nurses during World War I marked a significant milestone. The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, the predecessor to the Veterans Health Administration, took a historic step by approving the first hospital spaces in 1923.

We have come a long way since then.

In 2023, VA is celebrating 100 years of providing health care for women Veterans. Today, more than 2 million women Veterans live in America, and more than 600,000 women Veterans receive health care at VA each year. At VA, women Veterans now have access to a full spectrum of comprehensive health and gender-specific care, including fertility services, mental health care, maternity care and more.

Listen to the Podcast: Celebrating 100 Years of Health Care for Women Veterans.

Read on to learn about the events and people that paved the way for VA to provide women Veterans the best care anywhere.


  • 1923

    The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers accepts women Veterans of WWI for medical care and hospitalization for the first time at the Milwaukee and Danville branches.

  • 1924

    The Veterans Bureau begins accepting women Veterans for medical care and hospitalization for the first time.

  • 1929

    Admission to the Veterans Bureau is widened to disabled honorably discharged women nurses who served in any war.

  • 1931

    Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers, Chairman of the House Veterans' subcommittee on Hospitals, recommends the construction of Veterans hospitals for women to President Hoover after a 3-month survey in more than 24 states.

  • 1932

    The Veterans Administration reports the admission of 1,127 women Veteran patients to hospitals.

  • 1942

    The United States Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve), better known as the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) is established.

  • 1943

    • Event

      The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) is refashioned to the Women's Auxiliary Corps (WAC), providing the same benefits and rights to women as to men.

    • Event

      The number of women Veterans eligible for care at VA increases, partly due to the Sparkman-Johnson Act, signed into law by President Franklin, which granted women the right to receive commissions in the Medical Corps of the Army, Navy, and U.S. Public Health Service.

  • 1945

    VA begins hiring women physicians who specialize in the care of women Veterans.

  • 1946

    • Event

      Margaret D. Craighill, M.D., becomes VA's first Chief Medical Consultant on women Veterans' medical care and appoints the first 10 women doctors at VA to treat women Veterans. They are Dr. Margaret Janeway (New York), Dr. Marion C. Loizeaux (Boston), Dr. Jane Liebfried (Philadelphia), Dr. Gertrude R. Holmes (Atlanta), Dr. Grace Haskin (Columbus, OH), Dr. Angie Conner (Chicago), Dr. Elizabeth Fletcher (St. Louis), Dr. Eleanor B. Gutman (Seattle), Dr. Hulda E. Thelander (San Francisco), and Dr. Ruth Bergess (Denver.)

    • Event

      Violet Boynton is appointed as an advisor on women Veterans and employees under the Veterans Administration Special Services Program, the precursor to the Center for Women Veterans.

  • 1948

    • Event

      The first facilities for women Veterans are constructed in the Bedford, Massachusetts, and American Lake, Washington, hospitals.

    • Event

      The Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 provides women the right to permanently serve as members the Armed Forces. The signing of this Act is why we now celebrate Women Veterans Recognition Day on June 12.

  • 1971

    Valerija B. Raulinaitis, M.D., becomes the first woman to lead a VA hospital when she becomes the Director at the Leech Farm Road Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

  • 1978

    The first VA hospital named after a woman is dedicated in Bedford, Massachusetts, as the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital by Congress.

  • 1983

    The National Advisory Committee on Women Veterans is established. Public Law 98-160 "Veterans' Health Care Amendments of 1983" mandates this committee. It is charged with assessing women Veteran issues and needs and recommending changes that would eliminate obstacles to accessing care.

  • 1984

    • Event

      Viola Johnson becomes the first African American woman to lead a VA hospital when she becomes the Director of the Battle Creek, Michigan Medical Center.

    • Event

      VA conducts a survey with detailed information on the social, economic, demographic, and health characteristics of the current population of women Veterans, as well as their awareness of, attitudes toward, and usage of VA programs.

  • 1985

    Women Veteran coordinators are appointed in Veterans Benefits Administration regional offices.

  • 1988

    • Event

      Mary Antoinette (Toni) Lawrie helps establish what was then called the Well Women's Clinic at VA Bay Pines, Florida. At the time, only one other VA hospital in the country had a full-time gynecologist on staff.

    • Event

      A Veterans Health Administration office to address women's health issues (now known as Office of Women's Health) is created and Susan Mather, M.D. is appointed as chief.

  • 1990

    The VA Medical Center in Saginaw, Michigan, is renamed after Aleda Lutz, becoming the second VA facility named after a woman and the first named after a woman Veteran.

  • 1992

    Public Law 102-585, Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 authorizes VA to provide gender-specific services such as Pap tests, breast examinations, contraception, mammography, and general reproductive health care to eligible women Veterans.

  • 1994

    • Event

      Public Law 103-452 provides authority and priority for counseling and treatment for military sexual trauma (sexual assault or harassment incurred while on duty in the military).

    • Event

      The VA Women Veterans Program Office is established with Joan Furey an Army nurse Veteran, as the Executive Director.

    • Event

      VA funds the first national study on the quality of life of women Veterans who use VA health care services.

    • Event

      The Center for Women Veterans is established by Congress under Public Law 103-446, Veterans Benefits Improvements Act of 1994.

  • 1995

    Joan Furey is appointed as the first Director of the Center for Women Veterans.

  • 1996

    The first National Summit on Women Veteran Issues is held in Washington, DC, marking the first time women Veterans from across the nation have the opportunity to come together with policymakers and VA officials.

  • 1997

    Kathy Zeiler is appointed as the first full-time director of the VHA Women Veterans Health Program.

  • 1999

    • Event

      Carole Turner is appointed as the second Director for the Women Veterans Health Program.

    • Event

      Results of a study (Kang, Han K., et al. "Pregnancy outcomes among US women Vietnam veterans." American journal of industrial medicine 38.4 (2000): 447-454) indicate that children of women who served in Vietnam had a higher rate of birth defects. This prompted a Congressional hearing.

  • 2000

    The Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000, PL 106-419, authorizes special monthly compensation for women Veterans with a service connected mastectomy. Additionally, it provides benefits for children with birth defects born to women Vietnam Veterans.

  • 2003

    VA sees a significant increase in the number of women Veterans who receive benefits and health care services. The number of women Veterans enrolled in VA's health care system grows from approximately 226,000 in FY 2000 to nearly 305,000 in FY 2002, an increase of approximately 35%.

  • 2008

    • Event

      Patricia M. Hayes, Ph.D., is appointed Chief Consultant for the Women's Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group (later known as the Office of Women's Health.)

    • Event

      A July 8 memo is signed to hire a full-time Women Veteran Program Manager at each VA medical center. The establishment of a full-time Women Veterans Program Manager position had been recommended in the 2006 Advisory Committee report.

    • Event

      The first Women Veterans Health Primary Care Mini-Residency is held at Madison, Wisconsin, during which 40 providers receive training in clinical updates in women's health, including pelvic exams and cervical cancer screening, contraception management, abdominal pain, menstrual issues, and post-deployment care of women Veterans.

    • Event

      Public Law 110-387, Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2008, establishes a permanent requirement for the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans' biennial report.

  • 2009

    • Event

      VA initiates the largest health study ever of Vietnam-era women Veterans to explore the effects of military service on their mental and physical health.

    • Event

      The Charter for the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans is approved by the Secretary.

  • 2010

    • Event

      PL 111-163, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, authorizes VA to carry out a 2-year pilot program to assess the feasibility and advisability of childcare for "qualified Veterans who are the primary caretaker of a child." It also authorizes VA to provide health care to newborn children of qualifying women Veterans for up to seven days and increases focus on research for women Veterans.

    • Event

      VHA Policy mandates women's health provider at every clinic.

    • Event

      There are 1.8 million women Veterans, comprising 7.7% of the total Veteran population. As the number of women in the military increases, it is estimated that 10% of all Veterans will be women by the year 2020. More than 35 research projects funded by VA's Health Services Research & Development Service are addressing women Veterans' issues.

  • 2011

    The Women Veteran Call Center is launched.

  • 2012

    VA establishes a national maternity care coordination policy which requires that each pregnant Veteran using VA maternity benefits be assigned a maternity care coordinator (MCC).

  • 2013

    • Event

      Women Veteran VA health care users double, from 159,000 in 2000 to 390,000 in 2013.

    • Event

      VA invests more than $16.5 million in 86 studies on women Veterans' health. This research investment greatly expands VA's network of sites conducting women Veterans' health research from 4 in 2010 to 37 in 2013. VA also funds the Women's Health Collaborative Research to Enhance and Advance Transformation and Excellence (CREATE), a research initiative aimed at better meeting the needs of women Veterans.

  • 2014

    • Event

      VA launches phase 2 of the Women Veterans Cohort Study, examining data on more than 900,000 Veterans to better understand women's health needs, health care use, and outcomes.

    • Event

      Linda Schwartz, Ph.D., a disabled Veteran, is confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Policy and Planning. In this post, Dr. Schwartz helped develop and review VA departmental policy, analyze Veteran trends and statistics, and evaluate VA transformation initiatives.

  • 2015

    The Cleveland VA Medical Center opens VA's first clinic specifically designed for the health care needs of transgender Veterans. Known as the "GIVE Clinic" for Gender Identity Veteran Experience, it provides transgender Veterans with primary care, hormonal therapy, pre- and post-operative care, mental health services, and social work services.

  • 2016

    • Event

      VA begins revising its health care offerings to provide gender-affirming health care and services to LGBTQ+ Veterans.

    • Event

      Public Law 114-223, Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, authorizes VA to offer in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and Public Law 115-141, Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, removes the expiration date for IVF services and the time limits on cryopreservation of embryos and gametes.

  • 2017

    VA begins White Ribbon and anti-harassment programs aimed at improving women Veterans' experiences at VA medical centers across the country.

  • 2020

    VA continues work to equip every VA medical center across the nation with an LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator, a staff person whose primary responsibility is to coordinate care , services, and resources for LGBTQ+ persons and to advocate for their unique needs.

  • 2021

    Public Law 116-315, Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe M.D., Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, establishes an Office of Women's Health and provides greater opportunities for women Veterans to enhance their overall well-being by getting direct care and services related to fertility, expansion of newborn care, childcare, sexual assault and trauma, and homelessness.

  • 2022

    • Event

      The Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas Supporting Expanded Review for Veterans In Combat Environments (SERVICE) Act is signed into law, expanding toxic-exposure eligibility for veterans who served overseas.

    • Event

      The PACT Act is enacted, expanding VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.

    • Event

      VA amends its medical regulations to allow pregnancy options counseling and abortions when the life or health of the Veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term, or when the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.

    • Event

      On October 11, 2022, the new VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Ventura, California, was named after Captain Rosemary Bryant Mariner, who joined the Navy in 1973 and became a member of the Navy's first flight-training class for women. The new VA clinic named on her behalf has dedicated space for women-specific care, including a dedicated waiting room and provider area, and a women-only entrance.

    • Event

      The San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center is renamed to honor Army Captain Jennifer Moreno, a nurse from San Diego, who was killed in 2013 in Afghanistan.

  • Today

    Today, more than 2 million women Veterans live in America, and more than 600,000 women Veterans receive health care at VA each year. At VA, women Veterans now have access to a full spectrum of comprehensive health and gender-specific care, including fertility services, mental health care, and maternity care and more. Veterans do not have to be disabled or have a service-connected injury to be eligible for care.

People (in alphabetical order)


VA History in Focus Presents Healing Throughout History: Women's Health Care

Women Veterans' Stories of Service:
Peggy Mikelonis

Women Veterans' Stories of Service:
Linda Schwartz

Women Veterans Health Care Videos

Watch videos for and about Women Veterans.
Examples of Women's Health Outreach Posters

Women Veterans Health Care Outreach Posters

View our Outreach Posters.
Examples of Women's Health Outreach Posters
The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to VA. The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to VA.
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