Department of Veterans Affairs shifts focus as more women join armed forces
Lt. Col. Michele Papakie served in Afghanistan in 2010 on a response team to help service women deal with sexual assaults.
“Survivors were coming to me and sharing their stories. They're asking me to help them, and I couldn't even help myself,” said Papakie, a member of the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and an associate professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Working with rape victims revived memories of her own sexual assault, which happened outside the military 12 years before. It was a nightmare that she had told no one about.
Papakie spoke about her experience shortly before she addressed a conference of female veterans on Saturday in Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.
She urged them to seek help from the Department of Veterans Affairs as she did upon returning home.
“I feel stronger than before I left,” she said. “They helped me connect the dots.”
Patricia M. Hayes, the VA's chief consultant for Women Veterans Health, said just 2 percent of all active duty personnel in the United States were women in 1945 at the end of World War II. Today, their numbers have grown to 15 percent of all active duty personnel and 18 percent of those in the National Guard or Reserves. The number of female users of the VA has more than doubled from 159,000 to 354,000.
“The VA has shifted its focus to meet all the unique needs of women veterans,” Hayes said. “We had to change the culture of the VA.”
The VA has installed female waiting rooms in its facilities. Services include comprehensive primary care, gynecological services, mental health, disease management, prevention and screening, maternity and specialty care.
Daniela Krawchyk, 50, of Raccoon in Beaver County is a retired master sergeant who served in the 171st Air Refueling Wing.
“By coming here today, I hope this will get me started to understand the system,” she said.
Afterward, Papakie said one of the female students in the honor guard approached her. “She said, ‘Thank you so much for sharing your story. It really inspired me.' ”
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Transportation challenges rife as Pittsburgh focuses on making fixes
- Lawsuit: Pittsburgh Public Schools should have known officer was abusing boys
- Montour Trail gets needed updates
- Transportation funding uncertainty impacts planning for Western Pa.
- Newsmaker: Derek Wesley
- Development could soon be booming in West End
- 2 from Carrick charged in connection with rash of heroin overdoses
- Highmark asks patients to ‘Meet Dr. Right’
- Teachers union advises lawyers for colleagues of Plum pair investigated on sex charges
- Police confiscated cellphone of driver who struck 7-year-old girl Thursday
- Newsmaker: Brittney Jackson