The Monroe County Veterans Agency has partnered up with Messenger Post Media. This collaboration will feature a monthly article with important information for those who have served their country. Articles will focus on such things as veteran's benefits, upcoming veterans’ events and veterans’ services in Monroe County and much more.

People often ask, “What percent of the American population is currently serving in the United States military?” Invariably, the answer is shocking: less than 1 percent. Even more surprising is the growing number of women who are wearing our nation’s uniform. In 1973, only about 2 percent of the total military population was female. In 2013, that figure increased exponentially to an astounding 14.6 percent. As the ratio of males to females in the Armed Forces continues to evolve, so too must the services available to them when they come home.

One of the ways the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is addressing the issue of services for female veterans is by providing a Program Manager for Women Veterans at area VA hospitals and Community-based outpatient clinics. Furthermore, the VA is taking a serious look at treatment for Military Sexual Trauma, or MST. According to their website (http://www.womenshealth.va.gov/WOMENSHEALTH/trauma.asp), “VA provides free, confidential counseling and treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to experiences of MST. You do not need to be service-connected and may be able to receive this benefit even if you are not eligible for other VA care. You do not need to have reported the incidents when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred. Every VA facility has a designated MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues.” This is a tremendous step forward for any victim of MST- male or female.

In addition to the VA’s efforts, many community agencies in the Greater Rochester area are looking at ways to be more inclusive of female veterans. The following list includes just a few examples of this effort:

• In 2014, the Monroe County Veterans Service Agency held two events celebrating the service of women veterans. The goal was to connect with women, recognize their sacrifices made in the name of patriotism, and help them identify with programs and services that support veterans in this region. For more information about additional services for women, call 753-6040.

• CompeerCorps, a division of Compeer Rochester, offers a “women veterans peer-to-peer group” in which there is mutual support through resource sharing, friendship, networking, engagement in community activities, and much more. For more information about this group, call Alica Lannon at 753-6862.

• Through CDS Monarch in Webster, the Warrior Salute program provides a host of services to male and female veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to include residency, therapeutic options, job training, and much more. (Women veterans enrolled in the program are housed separately from the male veterans.) For more information, call Chad Curtis at 236-9571.

• There is a brand new “Drop-In Coffee House” sponsored by the Rochester Blue Star Mothers and the Veterans Outreach Center’s Women Veterans Initiative group. The coffee house provides an opportunity for women veterans to connect, share resources, and network in a safe environment. It’s open Friday Evenings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the following dates in 2015: 8/14, 8/28, 9/11, 9/25, 10/8, 10/22, 11/13, 12/11. The address is 1010 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607. There is free Parking behind the house, RTS Bus Accessible (Route 57), and children are welcome. For more information about the drop-in center, call 393-7621.

• On Monday, August 10 at 6:30 p.m., The Little Theater- in conjunction with the Veterans Outreach Center and WXXI public broadcasting- will air a free screening of the film, “When Women Come Marching Home.” This film will examine the trauma women experience during war, their challenges with transitioning back to civilian life, their physical and invisible injuries from combat, and above all their undeniable courage. For more information about this production, visit WXXI.org/veterans.