Female Veterans Will Face Unique Health Issues; Part II ~ The Implications

Written by Maurice Abarr on . Posted in Veterans Disability

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The U.S. military is now integrating female soldiers into combat units. These women are destined to confront issues that their male comrades-in-arms simply don’t face. In addition to sexual harassment and assault—criminal acts—female soldiers must contend with anatomic realities that can have real consequences to their post-service health and well-being. Moreover, military recruiters have no incentive to mention them.

As noted by retired military experts on the subject, Julie Pulley and Hugh P. Scott in their Op/Ed piece, “Women recruits risk more” in the “Los Angeles Times” (25th July 2017):

“Military recruiters are aggressively targeting high school female athletes. Ads featuring women glamorize close-combat skills.” … “In this push for more female recruits, it’s not at all clear that young women—or the civilian population in general—understand the unique, disproportionate health risks women face in combat roles. The dangers, which have been known for decades, will undoubtedly be exacerbated as women serve in the most physically demanding units. Although the Pentagon has published studies detailing these gender differences, no such information is readily found on the Army or Marine recruiting websites. And the neighborhood recruiter isn’t likely to fill you in, either. But avoiding hard truths isn’t a legitimate way to attract new volunteers to the military.” …

“These differences will put women at a distinct disadvantage in newly opened infantry jobs, where they will be expected to carry 100-pound packs routinely, or in armor jobs, where they will have to load 35-pound rounds again and again. Women in these roles will have to constantly work at a higher percentage of their maximal capacity to achieve the same performance as men. No training system can close the gap.

Extreme physical activity, irregular meals, inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, sleep deprivation and stress are common in close-combat units. These factors can trigger “conservation mode” in women, which results in a decrease in female hormones, cessation of menstruation, and osteoporosis with a heightened risk of stress fractures.

We also know that if stress and exertion don’t suppress menstruation, many women in combat roles will choose to do so with hormonal contraceptive use. The side effects may include depression, weight gain and breakthrough bleeding. Depo-Provera, the contraceptive of choice for many military women, now carries a warning for loss of bone mineral density.

Pelvic floor injuries are another gender-specific danger for female troops. Studies have found heavy load bearing and paratrooper training can contribute significantly to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse among women.” …

“[W]omen are approximately 67% more likely than men to receive a physical disability discharge from the army for a musculoskeletal disorder.”

The Bottom Line: If you’re female, your post-service health and well-being will be impacted. If you are still in the military, it is imperative that you “make a record” of symptoms as they develop. This means making trips to “sick call”—something that the military culture can discourage. But, you must protect your future. When you eventually separate from the service, be absolutely certain to: 1) report ALL symptoms and complaints you have at that time; and, 2) request a copy of all your Service Treatment Records from any and all locations at which you have ever been examined and/or treated. If your service-related disability case is denied, you will need the services of a law firm that specializes in this aspect of the law. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

(Also see Part I ~ The Facts)

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