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Female Veterans Lack Privacy at VA Facilities: Report

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Female veterans aren't assured of privacy when they bathe and undergo physical examinations at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, federal government auditors say.

No VA facility under review is complying fully with federal privacy regulations, said the Government Accountability Office, the Associated Press reported.

In many VA facilities, gynecological tables face the door. At four hospitals, female patients weren't guaranteed access to private bathing facilities. In two cases, there were no locks on bathing room doors, the GAO investigators found.

Privacy isn't the only issue for female veterans. VA hospitals lack child care and it can be difficult to find diaper-changing tables, the AP reported.

The VA knows that services for women need improvement, but changes are being made to "build the system that will provide care equal to the health care needs of all America's veterans, regardless of gender," said Patricia Hayes, chief consultant of the veterans strategic health care group at the VA.

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EmpowHER Guest

When I was young and did not need much the care seemed ok. As I got older, I could see I was not being given very good care. Conditions went undiagnosed and untreated. When I learned how we were supposed to be treated, given gowns and NOT asked to undress in front of male providers and trainees, then I knew something was wrong.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer I requested a female surgeon. (I had a bad experience with a military physician. Not uncommon, unfortunatly.) The woman who said she would be doing the surgery did not, after being medicated and prepped for surgery they brought in male residents and interns to perform the surgery, even drugged with versed I refused to sign the new consent form. Medical records and eye witnesses prove I was ignored and medical battery ensued as male interns, students, nurses, and physicians all had their way, performing practice intimate exams, the mastectomy and gyn surgery. It was not an isolated incident, as my request for all female staff was again violated for a colonoscopy. I was also left in all male care while still under the influence of mind altering drugs. The same sort of drugs used by rapists. I now have Herpes 2 w/ my husband of decades does not have. I will no longer get this sort of intimate care in the V.A. and have no money to do so on the outside, so I do not get this sort of care.
In response to my complaints the V.A. has done little but retaliate. Including putting in my medical records that I accused a female anesthesiologist of rape, a blatent lie, and one that has caused problems when I saught care on the outside.

September 24, 2009 - 3:47pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I have had very frustrating dealings with the VA. I am so sorry about the inhumane treatment you received. My experience so far is that different VA areas provide very different care. Please don't give up on yourself, see if you can get into a different clinic somewhere else. I'd find out how to challenge the record entries and/or write a rebuttal. I found that sometimes calling the VA, I get a sympathetic nurse or person who handles complaints and let them record my side of a story. I have a troublesome primary care doctor who is very difficult to deal with. I hate having to fight this system after having fought to be treated as an equal in the service. Please, don't give up, don't give up. Best regards, lslassiter in AZ

October 3, 2009 - 5:34am

I am a female disabled veteran and only started dealing with the VA less than 2 years ago. My experiences with the VA in Prescott Arizona have been pretty good compared to what this article reveals. My military service was sometimes painful, being the "first" woman at many things. Trailblazing for our rights as women, no matter how seemingly minor the experience, is something we have to do in the VA as well as in the service. Whoever is reading this, regardless of sex or anything about you, please don't give up fighting for the simple right of fair and respectful care. I always thought the VA was just for injured combat veterans. I was ashamed to ask for help but was desperate enough so I did. I feel very beat down by some of my experiences with the military, God knows I don't have much left to have to fight anymore. I welcome anyone's comments and encouragement. Proud to have served but living with the scars, Linda (lslassiter)

July 17, 2009 - 1:50pm
(reply to lslassiter)


Thank you for your service, and also for your important insight into a subject we rarely see addressed - the female veteran. We're more frequently bombarded with images of male veterans in rehab for their injuries.

Wishing you well, and please stay in touch with us.

July 17, 2009 - 5:58pm
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