Michigan has nearly 44,000 living women veterans and the state will honor them along with the many more who served before them on Wednesday.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared June 12th as Women Veterans Recognition Day in an attempt to recognize and support women veterans whom the administration says have been historically overlooked and underserved.
“Michigan women have been stepping up to serve our country for generations, and it’s time they get the respect and recognition they earned,” said Gov. Whitmer. “While I’m proud to declare June 12th Women Veterans Recognition Day, we’ve also got to make sure our women veterans have the year-round support they need when they return home, like access to quality, affordable health care, mental health services and housing. When Michigan women make the brave decision to put their lives on the line to protect us, it’s our responsibility to make sure they can build a good life for themselves when they return.”
The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency recently launched “She Is a Veteran,” a three-year campaign to recognize women veterans for their service, help them tell their unique stories and ultimately connect them to the benefits and services they earned.
“For a year and a half, I’ve been hearing the same underlying theme from women veterans across the state: ‘We’re overlooked, underrepresented and underserved in the community’,” said Erika Hoover, a Navy veteran and Women Veteran Initiative Coordinator for the MVAA. “Through She Is a Veteran, we can help these patriots get the appropriate resources and support they need.”
Nationwide, there are 2 million women veterans, making up nearly 10 percent of the total veteran population. While the number of veterans overall is decreasing, driven by the decline in male veterans, the number of women veterans is steadily increasing.
In Michigan, women veterans will continue making up a bigger part of the overall veteran population. While women veterans made up just 7 percent of the state’s veteran population in 2015 (compared with 93 percent male veterans), that ratio will more than double by 2045 when women veterans will account for 16 percent of the veteran population (compared with 84 percent male veterans).
Yet women veterans are facing numerous challenges, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Among them:
- 1 in 4 women veterans responded “yes” when screened for military sexual trauma.
- More than 40 percent of women veterans in the VA system have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
- A higher percentage of women veterans have a service-connected disability and live in poverty than male veterans.
- Women veterans are two to four times more likely to become homeless than non-women veterans.
- The suicide rate of women veterans is 1.8 times higher than that of non- veteran women.
Despite these challenges, women veterans have become four-star generals, commanded ships, earned medals of honor and run major components of the VA. As women become a bigger part of the veteran population, advocates say there must be continued efforts to remember, recognize and support their service.
In her proclamation, Gov. Whitmer urges “all Michiganders to honor women veterans on this momentous occasion.”
The resolution backing the proclamation, Senate Resolution 55, was passed unanimously June 5 and follows a similar resolution passed last year by the state House.
Michigan women veterans interested in telling their stories for the She Is a Veteran campaign are invited to complete this form.