The Massachusetts auditor this week released a report saying state officials aren't doing enough to serve women veterans.
Auditor Suzanne Bump found the Department of Veterans Services Women's Network had only identified 6% of the 25,000 female veterans living in Massachusetts, as of 2021. A related advisory committee also had more vacancies than members.
“DVS responded to our audit findings by pointing to specific instances of agency support for women veterans,” Bump said in a statement. “Isolated events however do not make up for the lack of overall strategic planning, policy development, and performance monitoring."
The auditor’s report covered a period from 2019-2021.
“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," Bump continued. "This is unacceptable.”
In a statement, the department of veterans’ services says it continues to make progress in increasing the women's network's capacity. It also says the advisory panel has been "revitalized" and is meeting again.
“The Women Veterans’ Network continues to identify and reach out to more women veterans, having conducted a comprehensive online survey this Spring to assess the needs and concerns of women veterans to better target, reach, and engage women veterans now and in the future with nearly 600 women veterans responding,” the statement said.
State Sen. John Velis of Westfield, who chairs the veterans and federal affairs committee, said more funding is needed.
“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,” Velis said. “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.”
Velis also touted his efforts to secure $500,000 in the fiscal year 2022 state budget for the program, and for a study on the needs of women veterans in Massachusetts. Velis said that study is underway.
This story is a production of New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media.