One of the bills already signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy targets women who've served in the Armed Forces. The state Department of Veterans Affairs has been tasked with creating a program that reaches more than 16,000 women veterans living in Connecticut.
The General Assembly didn't allocate any money to the state Department of Veterans Affairs to create the Connecticut Women Veterans' Program. Instead, new Commissioner Sean Connolly said his department will use existing resources to improve its outreach to women veterans.
"To see what kinds of programs and projects are out there, develop recommendations for improving benefits and determining whether new programs and projects are necessary to meet the need of our women veterans," Connolly said.
Some of their needs are different from their male counterparts. Often women are responsible for filling the caregiver role for their parent, spouse, or children. Connolly said women often ignore their own health care when caring for others. There's also the issue of military sexual trauma or MST. Women in the military are at a much higher risk for sexual assault and harassment which can lead to post traumatic stress and depression.
Connolly said he's designated a special projects officer to focus on the program and work with state veteran service officers as part of the department's Office of Advocacy and Assistance. He said their work will include creating a network of women veterans statewide who can help others connect to services and benefits.
The goal is to have the program up and running before the October 1 deadline and annual reports to the legislature's Veterans Affairs Committee will be due beginning in January.
In 2011, Former state VA Commissioner Linda Schwartz rolled out an initiative with the same goals. It was called the "Connecticut Women Veterans Network" or VETNET. It's unclear what happened to that program.