Women vets navigate benefits, PTSD, homelessness

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.

“My PTSD just took over my life and I became homeless,” said Houck.

She applied for help at the Veterans Affairs Department, but navigating the maze of benefits and programs is difficult.

“In 1977, I tried to get services and was told you didn’t have programs like that for women… You reach out for help you don’t get the help… And I feel this is often where suicides come from.”

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 – To talk about issues facing women vets and provide a place for them to organize and seek help.

“Our goal is to help reach out to the women who are still seeking services, looking for women leaders to direct them,” 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 women’s program. Still, Fannie admits it’s difficult for women vets to seek help.

“The types of personalities that we as women have…We’re the ones who will sign that piece of paper and say that we’ll die for you,” said Fannie.  “It’s that same kind of mentality that keeps us from going to keep up the fight getting help for ourselves.”

Women vets say it’s important for their peers to fight together – Their next major meeting is the Massachusetts Conference for Women Veterans at Boston’s UMass campus Saturday.

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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