Monday, February 5, 2018

VA Disregards Request To Drop Lincoln Quote To Make Agency Gender-Neutral

 Ed.  Rejoice! At least someone in the Veterans Administration has some sense.

The following article appeared in Weasel Zippers on February 4th

The quote allegedly stops women veterans from seeking treatment.

The Department of Veterans Affairs won’t pursue a change to its longtime motto despite complaints that it excludes women and symbolizes barriers for female veterans within the VA health care system.

The VA has had the same motto for 59 years: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The quote came from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865, the same year that he created the first-ever government institution for volunteer soldiers.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America called on VA Secretary David Shulkin in November to change the motto, describing it as sexist and outdated. The VA responded Jan. 26 that the motto was representative of “the heart of our noble mission.”

IAVA Executive Director Allison Jaslow felt the response brushed off her group’s request and was dismissive of larger, cultural obstacles for women veterans.

“They’re missing the point that women don’t feel comfortable at the VA,” she said. “We want to be respected and appreciated as much as male veterans are, and the motto is symbolic of overall challenges.”

Plaques inscribed with Lincoln’s quote now flank the entrance to VA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the quote is visible in many VA facilities throughout the nation.

Kayla Williams, director of the VA Center for Women Veterans, responded to pleas from IAVA to change the motto. She said VA leaders have gradually and unofficially been using an altered version of the quote: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”

“Recognizing that they can seem exclusionary to some women veterans, for many years I – along with other senior VA leaders – have honored the population we serve today by using a modernized version,” Williams wrote in a letter to Jaslow. “This symbolic update, which we are continuing to gradually incorporate alongside the original in digital and print materials, as well as spoken remarks, is an important acknowledgement of today’s veteran population.”

Gradual change – for the motto and for broader barriers to VA services – isn’t enough, Jaslow argued.

“I understand the need for incremental change in some instances, but not when there’s such a disparity,” she said.

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