Female veterans now have a hotline to call to receive information about gender-specific resources available to them.

The Department of Veterans Affairs began accepting calls to 1-855-VA-WOMEN on April 23, according to a news release.

“Some women veterans may not know about high-quality VA care and services available to them,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in the release. “The hotline will allow us to field their questions and provide critical information about the latest enhancements in VA services.”

Women now make up 15 percent of the active-duty military, and the number of women accessing their VA health care benefits has more than doubled over the past decade — from nearly 160,000 in 2000 to more than 354,000 in 2012.

Based on the upward trend of women in all branches of service, the VA predicts the number of women veterans — and female VA users — will keep climbing.

In Texas alone, the female veteran population is 188,050, said Angela Shinn, women veterans coordinator with the Texas Veterans Commission.

“This hotline is a great opportunity from the VA to provide more direct services for women veterans and solicit direct feedback from them regarding their needs,” she said. “Any endeavor that affords the women veterans of Texas easy access to learning about their identity as a veteran is a step in the right direction.”

Calls to the hotline are answered by VA employees, who can provide information about benefits including health care services for women. They can then be linked to information on claims, education or health care appointments as well as information about VA cemeteries and memorial benefits. Staff can answer urgent questions and provide referrals to homeless and mental health services as well as provide Vet Center information.

“Many women who served don’t self-identify as veterans and therefore don’t think they qualify for VA benefits,” said Irene Trowell-Harris, director of the VA’s Center for Women Veterans. “We need to correct existing misinformation and misperceptions so we can serve more women veterans with the benefits they’ve earned.”

All veterans also can receive information and apply for benefits online at www.eBenefits.va.gov and manage their health care at MyHealtheVet.va.gov.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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