BOSTON (WWLP) — When Fannie Houck was discharged from the navy in 1976, she survived a sexual assault and a helicopter incident that left her disabled and emotionally scarred.
â€śMy PTSD just took over my life and I became homeless,â€ť said Houck.
She applied for help at the Veterans Affairs Department, but navigating the maze of benefits and programs is difficult.
â€śIn 1977, I tried to get services and was told you didnâ€™t have programs like that for womenâ€¦ You reach out for help you donâ€™t get the helpâ€¦ And I feel this is often where suicides come from.â€ť
A 2010 Portland State University study found that women veterans were three times as likely as civilians to commit suicide. This is partly why women veterans are kicking off their first State House Advocacy Day â€“ To talk about issues facing women vets and provide a place for them to organize and seek help.
â€śOur goal is to help reach out to the women who are still seeking services, looking for women leaders to direct them,â€ť said Dna. Maria St. Catherine McConnell, the commissioner of the Boston Commission on Women Veterans.
Fannie eventually found shelter at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Leeds and is now on a path to emotional and physical recovery through the Soldier On womenâ€™s program. Still, Fannie admits itâ€™s difficult for women vets to seek help.
â€śThe types of personalities that we as women haveâ€¦Weâ€™re the ones who will sign that piece of paper and say that weâ€™ll die for you,â€ť said Fannie. â€śItâ€™s that same kind of mentality that keeps us from going to keep up the fight getting help for ourselves.â€ť
Women vets say itâ€™s important for their peers to fight together â€“ Their next major meeting is the Massachusetts Conference for Women Veterans at Bostonâ€™s UMass campus Saturday.
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