More education is needed to fill the knowledge gaps regarding available Veterans Affairs health care services and eligibility requirements among women veterans, according to recently published data.
“Healthcare nonusers, while having a more favorable health profile than VA users, still include women with health conditions that are associated with preventable morbidity such as hypertension, osteoporosis and depression. Similar to women veterans using outside health care, health care non-users had high levels of misperceptions about VA eligibility and services, and barriers to VA enrollment,” Donna L. Washington, MD, MPH, from the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Services Research and Development Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy, and colleagues wrote.
Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study, the National Survey of Women Veterans (n = 3,611), to assess health characteristics, perceptions of VA health care, barriers to use of VA and the reasons for non-VA and VA use.
In total, 14.1% of women veterans used VA health care in the previous 12 months. Dual users, women who used a combination of VA and non-VA health care, reported the highest use of health care, with VA-only users being second (7.4% dual, 6.6% VA-only, 76.4% non-VA only, 9.6% no health care).
The researchers found that while the main reason for non-VA use was due to insurance and/or location barriers, a significant number of women reported VA knowledge barriers or negative perceptions of VA as why they used either no or alternative health care resources.
The perception of VA was based on personal experience among 90% of VA users, while 70% of the other groups based their perception from media or other second-hand sources. The highest ratings of VA quality and sex-appropriateness of VA care was among VA-only users, with the lowest ratings coming from non-VA or non-health care users.
Compared to non-VA only users, VA users had worse physical and mental health. In general, younger women veterans had worse mental health, while older women veterans, aged 65 years and older, had worse physical health.
“Our findings suggest that health plans outside VA must account for the general and Veteran-specific need factors that Veteran status confers (eg, PTSD). Although VA users had more favorable perceptions than VA nonusers of the quality and sex-appropriateness of VA care, it was not universal, suggesting that future research should continue to address quality and sex-sensitivity concerns within VA,” Washington and colleagues wrote. – by Casey Hower
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.