WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) interviewed Paige Jenkins, Steering Committee Chair of the Military Women’s Coalition (MWC), founder of the Red Feather Ranch, and a Navy veteran. Chair Jenkins discussed the need for expanded transition programs that target women veterans and how VA can be more welcoming for all veterans—regardless of gender, sexuality, race, or gender identity. This interview is part of Chairman Takano’s commitment to hear from VSOs that represent our nation’s diverse veteran population. Watch the full conversation with Chair Jenkins here.
“I am so glad to join Paige Jenkins, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Military Women’s Coalition and founder of the Red Feather Ranch, for a Zoom call to talk more about MWC’s priorities and how VA can do a better job for our diverse veteran population,” said Chairman Mark Takano. “You have raised some really salient points about expanding transition programs and building a safer and more inclusive VA. A lot of my work has been about getting VA ready for this diversity, and it’s been one of my missions to make sure we hear from organizations like yours. We need to hear all the different veteran voices that haven’t necessarily been heard before. Thank you for your military service and your continued service on behalf of women veterans. With your help, we can build a more welcoming VA that works for our women veterans.”
“The two important things are for women to feel safe and to feel acknowledged and equal as veterans. Words do matter. When you walk in and don’t see yourself included in the VA motto, it’s like, ‘You’re a woman and you don’t belong here.’ Women need to feel safe when they go to the VA -- to the hospital and the CBOCs,”said Chair Paige Jenkins. “We don’t have transition out programs like we have transitioning into the military. It's a different transition out for women, because let’s face it: women are different. Even if a woman didn’t experience sexual assault or harassment while they were in the service, many experience sexism. The transition out is acknowledging that women feel they don’t fit into the civilian world. Many of them have been betrayed by the very institution that they took an oath to. They need a different type of transition program. When people go to TAP when they’re getting out of the service, oftentimes, they’re like, ‘I don’t want anything more to do with the military.’ It’s in one ear and out the other. There needs to be a longer program, more opportunity further down the road for them when they’re able to hear things. Veterans are veterans forever. At any point, they should be able to easily find the programs and the people that fit their personality or whatever their desires may be.”