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San Diego VA Medical Center Could Be Named For A Female Veteran

The San Diego VA Medical Center is pictured in this photo, Nov. 16, 2020.

Photo by Steve Walsh

Above: The San Diego VA Medical Center is pictured in this photo, Nov. 16, 2020.

The San Diego VA Medical Center could soon be named after a woman. This comes at a time when the Veterans Health Administration is trying to welcome female vets.

In its 2020 annual report, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans recommended the VA make a number of changes, including doing a better job of forecasting the needs of the growing number of female vets.

Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.

Another recommendation was to rename at least one VA hospital after a female veteran of significance, in order to encourage female veterans to be more comfortable using VA facilities. In the report, the VA responded that the administration cannot rename a facility without an act of Congress. Rep. Mike Levin (D-Oceanside) wants that facility to be in San Diego.

“I think there are so many overly qualified women veterans that we could select from and I look forward to getting the recommendation from our group that is convening to do this,” Levin said. “I’d like to think this is the sort of thing where we can get a great deal of consensus around.”

Karin Brennan was an army sergeant who worked in military intelligence behind the Iron Curtain for three years during the Cold War. She is chairing the new group, created by Levin to recommend the name of a local veteran. Brennan said it’s more than just symbolism for women vets or the young women who will see the sign.

“It gives them inspiration maybe to understand that, you know, honor and service to one’s country isn’t defined by gender as much as it is by personal character,” Brennan said.

The 11-member group of six women and five men will comb through San Diego history. The namesake veteran must be deceased.

“And the rest of this is up to how compelling of a history does this person have?” she said. “Were they a game-changer? Did they serve with distinction in such a way to put them above other people?”

It could be anyone, from 25-year-old Army 1st Lt. Jennifer Moreno, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2013, to the first female Marine to arrive at Camp Pendleton.

“Every veteran has a story. Men and women are no different in that respect. The only difference is our stories are not told as often,” she said.

The VA Dedication Group is supposed to give the congressman a list of three recommendations by Memorial Day. The VA hospital in La Jolla or the VA clinic in Oceanside are two candidates. Neither are currently named for a person. Levin would then submit a bill. Another group is also trying to rename the Manhattan VA after a woman veteran.

According to the report, the VA supports H.R. 1925. It's a bill to designate the Manhattan Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System of the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Margaret Cochran Corbin Campus of the New York Harbor Health Care System. Corbin was a Revolutionary War hero.

Regardless what happens in Manhattan, Levin said he will still try to name the San Diego VA after a female vet.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the San Diego VA Medical Center, if named for a woman, would be the first VA facility to be so named. However, the VA Medical Center in Saginaw, Michigan was the first VA facility to be named after a woman, World War II flight nurse Aleda E. Lutz. She flew 196 missions before being killed during a mission in southern France. We regret the error.

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Photo of Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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