Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Severity and Socioeconomic Factors Associated with Veterans Health Administration Use among Women Veterans

Womens Health Issues. Sep-Oct 2015;25(5):535-41. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.05.003. Epub 2015 Jun 27.


Background: The Veterans Health Administration (VA) has historically focused on treating men. Although women veterans' VA use is increasing, they remain more likely than male veterans to receive their care in non-VA settings. To date, there is limited research on factors associated with VA use among women. We examined the relationship between demographic, civilian, military, and health-related variables with past-year VA use among women veterans.

Methods: Women veterans were recruited over the internet to participate in an anonymous national survey (n = 617) in 2013. An empirically derived decision tree was computed using signal detection software for iterative receiver operator characteristics (ROC) to identify variables with the best sensitivity/specificity balance associated with past-year VA use.

Results: ROC analysis indicated that 85% of participants with high posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms and who were younger than 54 years of age used VA in the past year. Of those who were 54 years of age or older and had very high PTSD symptoms, 94% used the VA in the last year. By contrast, only 40% of participants with relatively lower PTSD symptoms had VA past-year use, although among these individuals, VA past-year use increased to 65% for those with a relatively lower income.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that greater PTSD symptoms, depressive symptoms, and low income correlate with VA use, with very high PTSD symptoms in older groups, high PTSD symptoms coupled with high depressive symptoms in younger groups, and low income in those with lower PTSD symptoms each associated with greater past-year VA use. Ensuring PTSD assessment and treatment, and addressing socioeconomic factors, may be key strategies for health care delivered directly or through contract with VA facilities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depression / economics
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Veterans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / economics
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / economics
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs / statistics & numerical data
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Veterans Health
  • Women / psychology
  • Women's Health
  • Young Adult