Pacific Standard contributor Lauren Kirchner recently reviewed a 2013 Journal of Family Violence study examining Veterans Health Administration (VHA) perspectives on screening patients for intimate partner violence (IPV). The study reveals that female veterans experience IPV at rates much higher than the general public. The study also highlights that while women comprise a growing number of active duty personnel and veterans, their unique health care needs often go unaddressed. VHA doctors lamented the lack the training they receive when it comes to identifying and intervening in cases of IPV. One doctor interviewed for the study had the following to say about screening for domestic violence among female veterans: “It’s just really not on my radar. It is so overshadowed by other mental health issues and substance abuse issues that, relative to those topics, IPV isn’t really up there.”
This failure to recognize the role that IPV plays in exacerbating such issues speaks to the need for increased training among VHA practitioners around identifying IPV in patients. For IPV survivors and advocates, it comes as no surprise that women experiencing abuse would present with a myriad of mental health concerns and substance abuse issues—particularly if this abuse is compounded by combat related trauma.
While millions gather today to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the nation’s military, let us also acknowledge the problem of IPV for female veterans and their families. Improving the healthcare that America’s veterans receive is no doubt the best way to honor their service.