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California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University third-year Clinical Psychology PsyD student Kailyn Bobb has been appointed to the Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, an expert panel that advises the Secretary of the V.A. on issues and programs impacting women veterans as well as make recommendations for policy and legislative changes.

Bobb is an Air Force Veteran, having served three years of active duty and four years in the reserves. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Loyola University and is currently a PsyD candidate in clinical psychology at Alliant Sacramento. She recently defended her dissertation on “Women Veterans Identity and Its Impact on Preference and Use of V.A. Healthcare Services and Reintegration.”

Two years ago while attending a women veterans summit, she learned that an inordinate number of women in comparison to men weren’t identifying themselves as veterans. Bobb says historically, women have played critical roles in the Armed Forces since the American Revolutionary War. However, they weren’t granted veterans benefits until 1948 with the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act and they were not given veteran status until the 1970s. The 1980 census was the first time women were asked if they were veterans.

Bobb also discovered that women veterans were not seeking services at the V.A. A 2011 survey by the National Center of Veteran Affairs and Statistics found only 32% of the 1.5 million women veterans at the time were enrolled in V.A. health care benefits. Choosing to bypass services can be deadly. In a recent study published in 2015 by Hoffmire and her colleagues, the number of suicides among veterans who use V.A. services were less than the number of suicides of those who did not use V.A. services.  Even more importantly, more female veterans committed suicide than male veterans in 2010. Bobb set out to find out whether veteran identity had an impact on whether women veterans sought services at the V.A. in the hopes of finding a point of intervention.

Bobb’s research found a correlation between women veteran identity and seeking services at the V.A. Women veterans who had a stronger veteran identity were more likely to prefer V.A. services and more likely to seek services at the V.A. This can have significant implications for not only suicide rates among women veterans, but also how funding and resources are allocated at the V.A. A majority of the services provided at the V.A. tend to be male-centered and gender-specific services are not available at some V.A.s. Additionally, if women veterans are not seeking services at the V.A., they are not flagging the system that services are needed. If resources are not available, women veterans are likely to seek services at non-V.A. providers, who may not inquire about their veteran status. Therefore, their military-related issues may not be assessed or treated.

Bobb further studied what factors make an impact on how women veterans construct their veteran identity. She found that the perception of their time in service impacted their veteran identity the most.  More specifically, if a woman veteran believed her contribution to the service was meaningful, it made a significant impact on how she constructed her veteran identity. However, in an institution that has been traditionally masculine, many women struggle with gender discrimination that has left them feeling as though their contribution was less important as compared to men. Furthermore, upon separation from the military, women veterans do not feel supported from civilian society. Due to civilian’s traditional views on masculinity and feminity, there are still some sectors of society that do not believe that women veterans exist.  Such social feedback has caused women veterans to minimize the importance of the sacrifice they made to their country.

As a member of the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Bobb is well-positioned to find solutions to help women veterans get the services they need.

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