In recognition of Veterans Day in Seminole County and because the issue of women veterans and the propensity of many of us to overlook women veterans, CMF reprises content from an original podcast in November 2011.
Featuring Venita Garvin Valdez and Laurie Reid, who spoke a year ago at an event hosted by the League of Women Voters of Seminole County, this encore is a condensation of the longer original version. We’ve posted a link to the original podcast at the bottom of the page.
Venita Garvin Valdez, a non-veteran, who is CEO of a domestic abuse shelter in Key West, Florida is helping lead a project called “Joining Forces for Women,” an initiative of the national BPW — Business and Professional Women’s Foundation where Valdez also holds a lay-leadership position as board secretary. Valdez speaks about the foundation’s history and their special interest in women military veterans.
Laurie Reid brings the women veterans’ issues down to a personal and a Seminole County level. Reid is a local US Navy veteran now in civilian life. Today, Reid serves as a counselor at Seminole Behavioral Healthcare. She addresses the specific aspects of being a female military veteran and the services and support of such veterans in Seminole County.
This event was originally presented by the League of Women Voters of Seminole County as part of their Hot Topics luncheon series. It was recorded at the Patio Grill in Sanford, Florida, on Thursday, November 17, 2011. League member and 2nd vice president, Zelda Ladan, facilitated the event.
Venita Garvin Valdez
a non-veteran and CEO of Domestic Abuse Shelter, Inc. member of the board of the national Business and Professional Women’s FoundationBio | Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys | Business and Professional Women’s Foundation
US Navy veteran, and director of clinical quality improvement & utilization management, Seminole Behavioral HealthcareBio | Web
Event Summary — written by league member Elizabeth Murphrey
On November 17, 2011 approximately thirty people attended the League of Women Voters Seminole Hot Topics Luncheon on the subject of helping women veterans adjust and transition to civilian society. The two speakers were Venita Garvin Valdez, Secretary of the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW) and Laurie Reid, a counselor at Seminole Behavioral Healthcare.
According to literature on the subject, Florida has the third largest number of women veterans of the states, behind only California and Texas. Approximately twelve per cent of Seminole County’s 38,500 veterans are women. Besides facing the same challenges as men veterans in reintegrating into civilian society, women are often disproportionately challenged by such issues as children, family obligations, and sexual trauma. They have skills such as leadership and teamwork learned in the military, but often they do not self-identify as veterans when they get out of the military and do not expect, and sometimes do not apply for the benefits available to all vets.
Venita Garvin Valdez told of the BPW Foundation’s program, “Joining Forces for Women”, which includes mentoring, collaboration, knowledge-sharing and reintegration assistance for returning women veterans. The BPW is particularly interested in helping women vets rejoin the civilian workforce. They are spending $50,000 on a mentoring program, which pairs returning vets with working women. The BPW also provides helpful websites for knowledge-sharing.
The second speaker, Laurie Reid, herself a Navy veteran, told of her experiences in the military, especially as one of 500 women on an aircraft carrier with 5000 men. She said that women veterans often have special challenges, including issues of privacy and pride, which make it difficult for them to seek the help they need. On any given night in Seminole County, 155 veterans are homeless—and some of these are women. There is no veterans’ homeless shelter program in Seminole County.
In 2010, 315,000 women veterans used VA hospitals—that is a much greater number than in earlier years. The average age of a woman veteran is 48, whereas it is 63 for their male counterparts. VA personnel are now being sensitized to the feelings and plight of women veterans. But transition to civilian life takes time—perhaps four to seven years. It is recommended that the transition period from the military to civilian life be extended—that is, that people departing from the military become acquainted with the benefits and services available to them as vets long before they actually are discharged.