Fischler College of Education: Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Abraham S. Fischler College of Education

Advisor

Nibaldo Galleguillos

Committee Member

John W. Billings

Abstract

The problem addressed in this study was female veterans faced unique challenges during military service and even more difficult experiences when transitioning into civilian life. Women long served in the military and reported similar as well as different experiences than men, especially in relation to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). For example, female veterans reported a higher percentage of sexual harassment and gender discrimination than did male veterans. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues were also reported differently for female veterans than males. Women were found to be more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness after returning from deployment.

This research was conducted using semi-structured interviews. The questions were broad in scope due to the sensitive nature of the problems faced by the participants. Questions focused upon recurring themes, such as PTSD, military sexual trauma, substance abuse, and impact on domestic relationships. The participants’ experiences were analyzed for patterns and trends, and the information was used to encourage future research efforts in the improvement of services for female veterans. The purpose of this research was to collect information from OEF-OIF female veterans who experienced firsthand the challenges of being active duty and a civilian. The study also explored different aspects of issues not immediately identified or researched in depth in relation to this population. This research would help to inform change within the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) system and other organizations supporting OEF-OIF female veterans and families.

Findings revealed participants shared similar experiences from their time in the military and during their deployment to serve in OEF and OIF. The accounts of their experiences presented themes of (a) PTSD and other mental health issues; (b) military sexual trauma; (c) discrimination based on gender, race, and rank; (d) different impacts of deployment; and (e) experiences with the VA health-care system. Findings provided a new understanding of the literature indicating the complex realm of what it is like for female veterans to (a) serve in combat, (b) transition back into their lives after deployment, (c) navigate the VA system, and (d) maintain their dignity and integrity while being discriminated against, and accepting and learning to live with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Findings supported past literature, suggesting female veterans were more likely to need long-term services to assist them as they returned from combat and transition back into civilian life. They needed specific female-centered assistance from the VA to treat them for issues related to physical and mental health, counseling and quality medical services, and housing and employment assistance to deter potential homelessness. Findings also supported the call for the Department of Defense, U.S. Military, and the VA system to acknowledge the issues of discrimination based on rank, race, and gender and to hold those accountable who used it as a means to control and limit the potential of female members of the military.

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