CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - America’s nearly 300,000 female veterans are “put at risk by a system designed for and dominated by male veterans” according to a recent report published by the national organization Disabled American Veterans.
Female veterans in the Lowcountry say they are often overlooked and don’t have a lot of resources specifically for them.
“Being a woman in the military has been an interesting experience,” Brooke Jackson Kahn said. “I’m very proud of the fact that I am a woman in a man’s world.”
Kahn joined the Army in 2009 and enlisted as a combat medic. Most men in her family joined the military while most women became nurses, so she decided to combine the two.
“I took my commission as an officer as a Physician Assistant in 2018 for the US Army Reserves and continue to serve in that same capacity today,” she said. When she returned to the Lowcountry and was finishing her senior year of PA school she completed a capstone project where she found PTSD is both under-diagnosed and under-treated in female veterans.
“From there I felt there were simply not enough women veteran organizations out there trying to educate the public about women veterans or many places we could simply enjoy each other’s company,” Kahn said. So she decided to create her own group called “She’s the Veteran.”
Disabled America Veteran’s report found there are gaps for female veterans when it comes to healthcare, transition services, disability compensation, employment and housing. It also found the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense are not fully prepared to “provide equitable access to the gender-specific care and services that women need.”
On top of those gaps, Kahn said there are stigmas women face when they return to civilian life.
“Men go off to war and they return and they’re called a hero, appropriately so they absolutely are,” she said. “Unfortunately for women, we go off to war and a lot of times were referred to as just a bad mom. There’s a lot of misunderstanding.”
Julie Harrison, also a US Army veteran living in the Lowcountry, says she faced challenges as well.
“The hardest part was just trying to figure out what job am I going to do, how does it translate being in military intelligence to a job in, you know, corporate America,” Harrison said. “And how do I make friends? Being in the military, you’re so much a part of a community and there’s just a great group of people and support that you have. And then, for me, I know it was a bit lonely leaving the military and just feeling like I was isolated and on my own.”
She believes women who are veterans would benefit from that camaraderie as well as help with jobs and medical care.
“And that’s why She’s the Veteran is so important, because it’s that sense of community. And you have that instant camaraderie with other women who have served,” Harrison added.
Melissa Washington, CEO and founder of the national group Women Veteran Alliance, said this is an issue all over the country.
“There’s such a gap when it comes to services and resources and connecting women and veterans with that,” she said. “There’s over two million women veterans...so it’s bringing awareness to them of our organization and letting them know about the resources and services that are out there, and getting them connected.”
These women say they are proud to have served our country and ask that you don’t make assumptions when it comes to the typical veteran.
“Don’t automatically assume if you see a woman in an Army t shirt that it’s her husband’s t shirt,” Washington said.
Kahn said almost every time she’s out with her husband and they ask about a military discount, the next question is almost always, “What branch?” while looking at her husband.
“We obviously have a long way to go to show girls that they can grow up and they can do this, they can be in the military, they can serve their country,” she added.
Kahn is planning two upcoming events for female veterans and also has a survey you can fill out by going to her website: She’s the Veteran. She also plans to pursue her doctorate and further the research on female veterans.