Op-ed: Women veterans – a proud piece of our history to be protected


New York’s women veterans have long been instrumental in our history, and it is important to continually recognize their trailblazing roles in our society. From tending to wounded soldiers in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, to combat support roles in Desert Storm, and to standing shoulder-to-shoulder while under attack in Iraq and Afghanistan, the dedicated service of women veterans has been vital.

Last year, in paying tribute to over 80,000 women veterans from New York State, the Assembly passed a commemorative resolution declaring June 12, 2013, as “Women Veterans Recognition Day.” This resolution recognizes all they have done to keep our country safe and preserve our freedom.

The designation coincided with the 65th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Act of 1948. Today, women make up nearly 15 percent of active duty military and approximately 15.5 percent of the officers across the four military branches.

In addition to their time in service, women deserve recognition when they leave military service – when they are often taken for granted. While the population of female veterans in the U.S. is small, the challenges they face after military service are significant, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder, poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, and the stigma following sexual assault.

The Assembly passed legislation to require local veterans’ service agencies to provide information on programs to assist veterans who experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST). This bill would require the state to devise a plan to provide assistance and benefits for veterans who experience MST while on active duty or during military training. This legislation is important because we need to erase the stigma associated with MST–women veterans should not be afraid to come forward.

Continuing the fight to provide the assistance to help veterans who have experienced sexual assault or abuse, we have introduced legislation that would not just study the rate of homelessness among women veterans but also cases of military sexual trauma experienced. Often MST is a pathway to homelessness for women. This would offer the first comprehensive study in decades on the rise of homelessness among female veterans and the unique challenges that increase their susceptibility to homelessness. The study would also collect the number of homeless women veterans with children and their unemployment rates.

Across the state from Queens to Utica, we have seen an increase in homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence among women veterans. The statistics are alarming and the need for a more comprehensive plan to deal with the issues affecting women veterans is needed.

Our military is evolving, and due to the tremendous bravery and intellect of the women who have served in our armed forces, it is getting stronger. Now more than ever, it is our obligation to make sure we are stepping up and not shortchanging women veterans after all the support they have given us.

Assemblymember Nily Rozic represents the 25th District; Assemblymember Anthony Brindisi represents the 119th District



More from Around New York