Sen. Velis Calls for More Supports for Women Veterans as State Audit Reports ‘Unacceptable’ Women Veterans’ Network

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In full transparency, the following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media.

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BOSTON – With yesterday’s release of the state audit detailing serious issues in the Department of Veterans’ Services Women Veterans Network, Senator John C. Velis (D-Westfield) today, September 28, called for more funding to help support the Department and ensure that all women Veterans
in the Commonwealth are being identified and served.

“The audit makes it abundantly clear that women Veterans in Massachusetts are not getting the resources and services that they need, and that is a huge problem,” said Senator Velis, Chair of the Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee. “Women are our fastest growing demographic of veterans, and it is our duty as a Commonwealth to ensure that we are doing everything we can to identify women Veterans and meet their needs.”

The audit, completed by the office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, criticizes the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS) for lacking policies and procedures to ensure it is identifying and serving women veterans through its Women Veterans’ Network (WVN) operations.

The audit, which was done between July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2021, found that: The Women Veterans’ Network had only identified approximately 6% of the approximately 25,000 women veterans living in Massachusetts.

DVS did not have a compliant advisory committee on women veterans to investigate, foster
and promote the interests of women veteran, as required by Massachusetts Law.

DVS had only 4 active members for its 11-member advisory committee on women veterans.

“We doubt, based on the data and other material provided, that most women Veterans are aware of all the resources available to them through DVS. This is unacceptable,” said Auditor Bump.

In the State’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget, Senator Velis was able to secure $500,000 in funding for the Women Veterans outreach program at DVS to help expand their outreach program and to conduct a study on the changing needs of women veterans in the Commonwealth. The program is typically
only funded at around $116,000 annually. While the study has already begun, Senator Velis stated that is clear that additional supports for DVS and women veterans are necessary.

“As Chair of the Veterans Committee, I always make it a priority to meet with veterans’ groups and hear from the boots on the ground on the issues they are facing. And through these conversations it became clear to me that gaps in outreach to women Veterans exist and that many women Veterans may not getting the benefits and resources available to them. That is why I fought to secure the funding in the FY’2022 budget to support outreach efforts and study what additional services we need to be implementing for women Veterans,” said Senator Velis, who is a US Army
Veteran himself and currently serves as a Major in the US Army Reserve. “This audit confirms that suspicion and makes it clear that we need to do more. I’ve had the honor of training and serving alongside many women in the military. It’s no secret that they face entirely different challenges than
their male counterparts. From housing to medical care, women Veterans have different needs, and we absolutely must ensure that none of them are falling between the cracks.”

editor

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