U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois recognizes National Women Veterans United in Chicago.


Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, we celebrated Veterans Day last Monday. On the 11th day of the 11th month, we pause to honor the courage and sacrifice of our Nation’s veterans. Millions of Americans have served in uniform over the years, many of whom return home with visible and invisible wounds alike, often to serve again in their communities.

I had the privilege to meet with a group of such dedicated veterans recently at a meeting of the National Women Veterans United in Chicago. National Women Veterans United is the only center in Illinois dedicated to serving women servicemembers and veterans. Run by women and for women, I met with founder and president, the formidable Rochelle Crump. Rochelle served in the Army during the Vietnam era and has a long history of working with the VA at the Federal, State, and local levels. Rochelle and other members of her community in Chicago noticed that women veterans were falling through the cracks when it came to accessing the benefits they have earned, so they founded National Women Veterans United in 2005 to help fill the gap.

The VA reports that there are approximately 2 million women veterans in America, reflecting 9 percent of the total veteran population. By 2045, the share of female veterans is projected to double to 18 percent. Women are among the fastest growing segments of the veteran population; yet many women veterans are either not aware of the benefits afforded to them or they are frustrated with the VA’s inability to understand or address the unique needs of women veterans. For example, women veterans tend to be older. The top reported health issues they face are PTSD, TBI, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, but many also require services related to unique health needs such as military sexual trauma and reproductive health.

Now, the VA has made great strides over the years to provide for women veterans, but we must do more, especially when it comes to changing the culture at the VA that has often been a barrier to women seeking care at the VA. Groups like National Women Veterans United try to break down those barriers. They have helped hundreds of women veterans and their families, providing assistance in navigating the VA, holding healthcare screenings, and offering a host of personal and professional development opportunities and support groups. National Women Veterans United also supported entire families, such as the Gold Star Robinson- Wilson family. SGT Simone Robinson of Robbins, IL, was 21 years old when she died of wounds sustained while serving in Afghanistan. At the time, she had a 2-year-old daughter. National Women Veterans United has helped care for the family after the sergeant’s death. Earlier this year, they named their beautiful new center after her, now the SGT Simone A. Robinson Military Women Veteran’s Center.

I would like to recognize a few of the other great women I had the opportunity to meet during my visit with National Women Veterans United, including two Korean war veterans: Wille Merine Rouse and Miljan Akin—Rouse also served again in Iraq, as did her daughter Rene —Sharon Stokes-Parry, who served in Iraq with the Marine Corps; Diane Halle, a retired U.S, Army master sergeant who later worked at the Jesse Brown VA and with Team Rubicon on disaster relief around the world; Jeannie Adams, a Vietnam Air Force veteran who serves as their treasurer; Donna Cooper; Hazel Noble; Valorie Harris—the list goes on.

I look forward to continuing to work with National Women Veterans United. These brave women stood guard for our freedom in uniform, and now, they continue to stand in support of their community— and specifically as African Americans, some of whom served during times of racial segregation, they faced challenges not only as women, but as Black women. Now, they help others who face challenges. May we use their inspiration—and the inspiration of all of our veterans— to find our own ways to sacrifice for the good of our Nation and our world.