Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne during a 2021 all-female flight and airborne operation, in which two C-17s flown and crewed by women dropped almost 200 female paratroopers at then-Fort Bragg, NC. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Pye.

More than 53,000 women veterans enrolled in healthcare provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, between May 2023 and May 2024, the largest enrollment for women veterans on record, the VA announced on Wednesday to mark Women Veterans Recognition Day.

 “On this day in 1948, women were granted a formal place in our country’s military,” VA Deputy Secretary Tanya Bradsher said in a statement. “Today, the more than 2 million women Veterans living in the U.S. make up our fastest growing Veteran population. It’s important to all of us here at VA that every woman Veteran knows she belongs at VA.” 

The enrollment of women veterans in VA healthcare is 20% higher than in the previous year, a VA news release says. The states that saw the greatest number of enrollments were Texas, Florida, California, Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina.

The increase in women veterans enrolling in the VA is largely being driven by the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, which allows the VA to presume that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from lung cancer and other diseases were sickened by their exposure to burn pits and other sources of toxins. 

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Signed into law in August 2022, the PACT Act also makes it easier for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange while serving outside Vietnam as well as veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness to file medical claims with the VA.

More information about which illnesses the VA considers presumed service-connected for toxic exposures is available online or by calling 1-800-698-2411.

The VA is providing disability benefits to 717,141 women veterans, a record high, the VA news release says. That also represents an increase of 197,667 women veterans over the past five years.

More than 89% of women who have applied for disability benefits are receiving compensation for at least one condition. They are receiving an average of $27,109 in earned disability benefits per year.

Over the past two years, the VA has also increased health services for women veterans, including breast cancer screenings and mammograms for veterans who were potentially exposed to toxins, increased reproductive health services, and expanded maternity care.

For more information about such services, call the Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-829-6636 or use the online chat feature.

“It’s our goal for every woman Veteran to receive all the benefits she has earned, and that includes world-class health care,” VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal said in a statement. “We want women Veterans to know that VA has invested in more services for women Veterans than ever before. VA can now offer women the best and most accessible options for all their care needs, and we want them to apply for the health care they deserve today.”

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