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Cheyenne VA reaches out to women veterans
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Cheyenne VA reaches out to women veterans

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CHEYENNE — Nora Monnett has civilian insurance but receives her health care from the women’s clinic at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cheyenne.

The VA personnel, she said, understand what she was exposed to and her specific needs.

Monnett, 34, is an eight-year Air Force veteran. She spent nearly six months in Iraq as an Air Force pharmacist.

“I always tell people it’s a life experience and I’m glad I was able to have it, but I don’t want to repeat it,” she said.

Years ago, VA hospitals didn’t treat women veterans. Today, women are the fastest growing minority in the military. And, as Monnett pointed out, the women who entered the military in large numbers after the 9/11 attack are now starting to come out of service.

Monnett goes to the women’s clinic for regular exams among other things. “I think the VA has gone pretty much above and beyond to make sure all the services are available to us,” Monnett said.

The VA women’s clinic in Cheyenne started in 1999 and gets busier and busier. It now serves 1,300 women veterans enrolled from Wyoming, northern Colorado and western Nebraska and receives referrals from Montana.

The facility has outreach clinics in Greeley and Fort Collins, Colo.

The Cheyenne waiting room is papered in soft purple wallpaper and has a separate entrance to the outside. The staff includes Dr. Amanda Johnson, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Brandy Marshall, the women’s clinic manager.

“The women’s veteran program is a model of integrated care,” as it provides overall treatment as well as gender-specific screenings, Johnson said.

The women veterans’ disabilities range from back problems to traumatic brain injury to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Patients also have access to a military sexual trauma program, which is not exclusive to women and deals with the effects of unwanted sexual conduct. The Cheyenne VA has a sexual trauma coordinator.

About the only thing the clinic isn’t set up for is newborn care. Babies of women veterans are delivered in the local hospital. However, the VA recently added a new benefit — seven days’ hospital care for newborns.

Monnett, a pharmacist at the VA Medical Center, is originally from Florida. She is married and has two children. She joined the Air Force in 2002 and was discharged in November.

“I’m really impressed,” she said. “Sometimes you go to a place and you feel like you’re just a co-pay to them, but here it doesn’t feel that way.”

Nationally, the VA is conducting pilot programs and research projects on the problems of women veterans.

Most of the women veterans who receive maternity care in the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center return to the VA for routine care and for problems such as mental health issues.

On Mother’s Day last month, the women’s clinic hosted — in conjunction with the Daughters of the American Revolution — its first baby shower for 13 women veterans.

The shower was an opportunity for the staff to let the veterans know about the newborn care benefits, for example.

Nearly 100 women veterans recently attended the clinic’s annual luncheon, which was another opportunity to educate them on the services available at the clinic.

Johnson said there is no prototype female veteran patient.

“We see many many different kinds of patients,” she said

One morning last week she saw menopausal and post-menopausal patients and performed several procedures.

The VA nationally is encouraging women veterans to contact their local VAs and enroll in the health care system as part of its outreach efforts.

Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com

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