|More than 700 attend Ohio female veterans meeting|
|Written by LISA CORNWELL, Associated Press|
|Sunday, 29 September 2013 05:26|
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) â€” Cassandra Renfroe says she didn't know how to reach out for veterans benefits and other help when she left the Marine Corps seven years ago.
But Renfroe, one of more than 700 women veterans attending the Ohio Women's Veterans Conference in Columbus on Saturday, said she has seen improvement in services for female veterans since then.
"When I got out, I didn't know where to turn or what was out there," said Renfroe, 33, of Canal Winchester. "There is more help out there now, but there needs to be more follow-up. Veterans need to be asked what they need."
She and others attending the conference heard national and state veterans officials talk about the strides that have been made in services and resources for female veterans, but even those officials acknowledged that more can be done.
"We've had a lot of catching up to do," said Betty Moseley Brown, associate director of the national Center for Women Veterans, an arm of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Brown told the group that women are now one of the fastest growing subpopulations of veterans, based on active duty and recruiting numbers, and the percentage of female veterans nationally is expected to increase. As of Sept. 30, 2012, there were 2.24 million women among 22.3 million living U.S. veterans, according to Brown.
She and others addressing the group urged them to reach out to others to let them know about available services.
Brown said online benefits information is providing better access and veterans officials are working with the military to get more of that information out to men and women before they even leave the service.
Renfroe, who says she served in the Marines from 1998 through 2006, is a nurse and says she often encounters patients who are veterans but don't know they are eligible for help or are reluctant to seek it.
Tina Walker, 55, of Columbus, agrees there are more organizations and networks to help female veterans than when she says she left the Air Force in 1992. But Walker says it is still difficult, especially for older veterans, to find out about those groups and to get through the obstacles of applying for and receiving benefits.
Walker was referring to the backlog of disability claims that has drawn criticism and complaints from around the country.
"It shouldn't be so difficult to get benefits you are entitled to and need," she said.
The veterans heard inspirational comments from Jessica Lynch, the Army supply clerk severely injured in a 2003 ambush in Iraq and rescued by a special forces unit. Lynch told them perseverance helped her survive and urged them to not give up, no matter what hurdles they face in life.
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