Mary K. Talbot Special to
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ acting deputy secretary made her first visit to Rhode Island last week to see progress on the Providence Medical Center’s $145 million in capital investments.
Pamela J. Powers took the job six months ago, responsible for leading enterprise modernization of the federal government’s second-largest Cabinet department. The VA has a budget of more than $218 billion and a staff of 400,000 people who serve in medical centers, clinics, benefits offices, and national cemeteries across the country.
Powers is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and served almost 30 years in the Air Force and Department of Defense before retiring as a colonel. Before becoming acting deputy secretary, she served as chief of staff.
As a female veteran who gets her healthcare in the VA system, Powers is dedicated to serving others like her.
“Women are our fastest growing population,” she says. “Thirty percent of all new VHA [Veterans Health Administration] users are women, and our latest data shows that at the end of last fiscal year, 41 percent of our women veterans were enrolled.”
Powers estimates that number to be approximately 550,000 women who need “a safe and welcoming environment” to receive care.
“We have made significant strides to enhance our services and resources for our women veterans. We now have a women’s call center that has made almost 2 million calls and sent out almost 100,000 information packets to women to help them understand what is available at the VA, [and] how they can access benefits. We also do chats and texts and have an online, anonymous chat for those who wish to use it.”
Powers added, “We now have two women’s healthcare providers at all of our healthcare systems, in addition to almost all of our community-based clinics.”
The outreach and increased access to women’s healthcare services are paying off.