Women Veterans Committee Update January/February 2021

Kate O'Hare-Palmer, Women Veterans Committee Chair

BY KATE O’HARE-PALMER, CHAIR

We have moved into 2021, and all of us are ready for a clean slate to start a year that will bring a more positive outlook. I want to thank all the committee members for their work last year and extend condolences to those who have lost loved ones and friends due to COVID-19.

The VA issued a press release regarding the distribution of vaccines to veterans. You can sign up for vaccine information here.

Our committee continues to work on H.R.8270, the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act of 2020. Guillen was murdered on April 22, 2020, by another enlisted soldier at Ft. Hood. Her dismembered remains were found two months later by the Leon River. Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and the five civilian members of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee unveiled the results of a three-month investigation of the Fort Hood command climate and culture on December 8.

The independent review, which was directed by Secy. McCarthy, arose from concerns voiced by family members, veterans service organizations, Congress, and Hispanic advocacy groups during the investigation into Guillen’s disappearance and murder. The report can be found here.

It offers findings and more than 70 recommendations intended to benefit Fort Hood and the entire U.S. Army. Be prepared before reading this report. Parts of it are shocking to read. Graphs depict the number of sexual assaults, harassments, thefts, drugs, larceny, AWOLs, and more.

Secy. McCarthy has taken significant measures to hold military leaders responsible and has instituted a new policy on missing soldiers. He has formed the People First Task Force to map out a plan to tackle issues identified in the report. That a military installation continued to run with this level of dysfunction is inconceivable.

Another shocking incident took place during a virtual VA town hall meeting in December. During the meeting women veterans were cold-called and without warning were put into a group conversation about sexual abuse. 87,000 people were called. This event was poorly handled, potentially harmful, and didn’t build any positive connections with the veterans. Women veterans took to social media that night to express outrage over the intrusion into their privacy and the VA’s lack of concern about the potential harmful effects of the event.

That incident took place following reports about VA Secretary Wilkie’s serious mishandling of a sexual assault claim at the Washington, D.C., VAMC last year. VVA joined five other veterans groups calling for Wilkie’s immediate firing. VVA and the other VSOs had lost confidence in his ability to lead in needed reforms to help women veterans.

The committee soon will review our resolutions prior to this year’s Convention. I ask all of you to go to the VVA website, read the Women Veterans Committee Resolutions, and forward your recommendations. Again, thank you for all that you accomplish in your communities for women veterans.

The Women Veteran Honor pin has finally arrived. It looks just like the challenge coin, but it is lapel size. You may order ten pins for $30. You can reach me at koharepalmer@vva.org for details.


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