Sigma Tau Sigma, or ΣΤΣ, is a new military sorority founded by Rachel Keith (ret USAF), Laura Andrews (USA vet), Jessica Roza (USA vet), and Drea Williams (USAF) and other female veterans that found that there was a general lack of resources and support both in and outside of the military communities.
Sigma Tau Sigma derived its name from “Sisters Through Service” and their mission is offer support for our military women, as well as provide opportunities for leadership development, access to resources, and will help create bonds of sisterhood that are difficult to establish in the male-dominated Department of Defense.
Keith first thought of the idea of a sorority as she was transitioning from her 17-year career in the US Air Force, Reserves, and Texas Air National Guard as an AGR (active guard reserve member) to the civilian sector. She discovered that female veterans were 50% more likely to be unemployed than their civilian counterparts.
“There seemed to be many support groups and nonprofits that are quality organizations led by men, but just like the military itself, there was not enough information available for important issues like VA health care and resources that specifically addressed the unique concerns and experiences of the female veteran,” explained Keith. Furthermore, a 2009 VA study revealed that from “2000 to 2009, the number of women Veterans using VA health care increased 83 percent” (italics mine). To put this in perspective… “During this same period, the number of male Veterans using VA increased only about 50 percent.”
“Every time I searched online for information and support groups for women, I was directed toward sites and groups for military wives. That is unacceptable in 2017 considering more women than ever are serving overseas since 2001,” continues Keith. “Not only is the general public shocked when I mention I am a veteran and reference my experiences, but even when I approach the facilities at our local VA, it is automatically assumed I am a spouse. As a female vet, I was made to feel like my contributions and experiences don’t count.”
While the VA ha made progress in women’s health care, there is still a long way to go. Probably the most concrete and shocking example of the kind of care women can expect to receive was when a friend of Keith’s sought treatment for her military sexual trauma-induced PTSD at the Dallas Veteran’s Affairs Hospital. The Dallas VA has a private, separate clinic on the hospital grounds for MST victims to seek treatment. While waiting in the clinic, a male combat veteran was checking in at the same time, apparently because his clinic was overbooked. The friend stated that everyone appeared uncomfortable–the females waiting to be seen and the male himself.
Another problem facing female veterans seeking assistance is that not only are there so few non-profit organizations for women, the ones that do exist only seem to be interested in soliciting donations from those women looking for help. One female related that back in 2011-2012, she reached out to such a non-profit seeking help with disability claims and emergency assistance for her children, who were are risk of being homeless due to the loss of income after separating from the military. Her emails and submissions for more information about the programs supposedly offered, were met with emails asking for donations which contained links on how to help veterans in need.
Sigma Tau Sigma is currently working towards obtaining their 501c3 tax exempt status with the IRS as a charitable organization. The 501c3 designation will allow the group to begin fundraising and provide resource referrals, grants and scholarships to cover expenses not covered by educational benefits (which are notoriously difficult to access anyway). Sigma Tau Sigma also plans on organizing activities across the US that allow female vets to participate in group activities such as equine therapy, entrepreneur and leadership mentoring, seminars, and more.
If you are interested in joining Sigma Tau Sigma as a member, please check out their Facebook Group at Sigma Tau Sigma Facebook Group. If you are interested in knowing more about their plans and would like to help, please message the board members at firstname.lastname@example.org.