HSR&D Citation Abstract
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New women veterans in the VHA: a longitudinal profile.
Friedman SA, Phibbs CS, Schmitt SK, Hayes PM, Herrera L, Frayne SM. New women veterans in the VHA: a longitudinal profile. Women's health issues : official publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. 2011 Jul 1; 21(4 Suppl):S103-11.
The number of women veterans using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services has increased rapidly, but the characteristics of women joining VHA are not well understood. We sought to describe sociodemographic characteristics, utilization, and retention of new and returning women VHA patients over a 7-year period.
We identified women veterans who used VHA outpatient services from VHA Enrollment and Utilization files for fiscal years 2003 through 2009. "New" patients in a given year had no outpatient use within the prior 3 years. Patients were "retained" if they continued to use VHA in subsequent years.
Of the 287,447 women veteran VHA outpatients in 2009, 40,000 (14%) were new to VHA in that year and over half had joined VHA since 2003. Nearly two thirds of these new patients were younger than 45, and 43% carried a service-connected disability status. Most new patients (88%) received primary care services in 2008, and 40% used mental health services. Repeated use of mental health services (at least three visits per year) nearly doubled among new patients (from 11% in 2003 to 20% in 2008). Among those using VHA primary care in 2006, 68% of new patients versus 91% of returning patients were retained in either of the subsequent 2 years.
The influx of new women veterans seeking VHA services in recent years, combined with their high rate of retention within VHA, contribute to the marked increase in numbers of women veterans using VHA. Many require fairly intensive VHA services.