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    Navy mom, inspired by daughter’s service, takes on Women Veterans Program at Roseburg VA

    Navy mom, inspired by daughter’s service, takes on Women Veterans Program at Roseburg VA

    Photo By T. T. Parish | Jessica Burnett, the interim Women Veterans Program Manager with the Roseburg VA...... read more read more



    Story by T. T. Parish 

    Roseburg VA Health Care System

    Did you know women Veterans make up 8 percent of Oregon’s Veteran population? Though small now, the growing population requires unique answers to the unique challenges facing women Veterans.

    The Women Veterans Program at RVAHCS is designed to identify those challenges and to work with women Veterans to find those answers, according to Jessica Burnett, a social worker and interim Women Veterans Program Manager here. For Burnett, the mission is a personal one.

    “I am a true Oregonian. After visiting many places, I knew Oregon is where my heart is,” said Burnett. “I spent nearly 15 years providing rural social services in Coos and Curry County. I decided it was time to move to warmer a climate and relocated to Roseburg where my daughter attended [Umpqua Community College].”

    The move was fortuitous – shortly after arriving, Burnett’s eyes turned toward the VA as a place to serve Veterans, mainly due to her daughter’s spirit of service.

    “My daughter currently serves in the Navy, active duty, and that was what really brought my journey to the VA,” said Burnett, who joined the VA in September 2018. “She went to UCC here in town and got her associates degree and was planning to go to university. And she came home one day and said, ‘Hey Mom, so, I’ve decided to take a different path in life, and I signed up for the Navy.’ I didn’t see that coming, she hadn’t talked about it before. She said, ‘This is something I felt called to do and this is what I’m going to do,’ so my role at that point was to be a support person. And so, I felt, Well, if my daughter is feeling called to do this, I’m going to see what I can do to support Veterans and our community as a whole, and I came over to the VA.”

    Personal mission aside, Burnett hopes to expand services available for all Veterans – primary care, mental health, housing assistance – and localize it specifically for the women Veterans enrolled at RVAHCS. She fosters a program that is open, accessible, welcoming and Veteran-centric.

    “From my perspective, we should be taking a patient-centered approach, which is another word for customer service – we’re here to serve them and provide care and services for our Veterans,” said Burnett. “Hearing their feedback, what is it that they need? Let them tell us what they need from us so we can best support them. It is their journey, their life. We don’t walk in their shoes, we don’t know unless we ask the question, ‘How can we can serve them best?’”

    For Burnett, the best way to serve women Veterans is to expand understanding of women Veteran needs and availability of health care specific to women: yearly exams, such as pap smears and mammograms, as well as support for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma. While there is no one right answer, the Women Veterans Program is available to coordinate the care and services women Veterans require.

    “Women Veterans served alongside men – women are a minority within the VA, but they’re the fastest growing minority population,” said Burnett, whose daughter serves aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. “I hear women tell me all the time that they get addressed as a ‘mister’ instead of being addressed as a ‘miss.’ It’s just assumed that they are a spouse, or if it’s just a last name that they are male.”

    While she works to expand access and refine the services RVAHCS provides for all Veterans, Burnett understands the need to expand women-specific services that invite collaboration, involvement and a whole health approach to addressing women Veteran needs – she owes it to her daughter.

    “I feel that we really need to put a lot of effort and work into women’s health care in the VA because it is an area that, previously and historically, haven’t been a part of the VA,” said Burnett. “The VA provides state-of-the-art care for a variety of conditions – PTSD, substance abuse, MST, polytrauma. We also offer programs that aren’t available widely in the general public, such as infertility coverage, long-term care services, caregiver support programs, telehealth, whole health, homeless and vocational programs.”

    While women Veteran services continue to expand, Burnett it committed to establishing best practices at RVAHCS to better serve women Veterans.
    “My daughter, she’s active duty right now, but when she comes home, I want her to have a health care system that is top-notch, I want it to be better than what she can find in the community.”

    Point of contact for this release is Tim Parish, Public Affairs Officer, Roseburg VA Health Care System; timothy.parish@va.gov; 541-440-3026.



    Date Taken: 11.19.2019
    Date Posted: 11.19.2019 16:50
    Story ID: 352433
    Location: ROSEBURG, OR, US 
    Hometown: NORFOLK, VA, US
    Hometown: ROSEBURG, OR, US

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