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Nonprofit Spotlight: Service Women’s Action Network

The Service Women’s Action Network is the only national organization of 40,000+ Veteran-focused non-profits that advocates for and supports the needs of both women Veterans and Active Duty Servicewomen, regardless of rank, branch, or years of service. Join us in contributing to SWAN’s mission of advocacy, connection, and support for military women – past, present, and future. A portion of all purchases made in the Lady Vet Shop will be donated directly to SWAN now through May 31st, 2024.


Women have served and fought in every conflict since the American Revolution. Yet despite women’s critical contributions to our national security, we continue to face barriers. These barriers exist both during service and after; especially when accessing the benefits and services women have earned.

In more positive news, there is a national non-profit working to address this and more. The Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) is a national network advocating for the individual and collective needs of service women. SWAN’s priorities are guided by its members, who include thousands of women and men, service members and civilians. The organization is committed to seeing that all service women receive the opportunities, protections, benefits, and respect they deserve.

Women service members and Veterans have benefited from many different support programs. But the vast majority of them are still built to meet the needs of men. SWAN is committed to changing that. There are currently 40,000+ non-profits serving the needs of Veterans. Yet SWAN is the only one advocating for women Veterans and servicewomen of every branch, rank, and era of service.


So what does SWAN do? Their mission is to advocate, connect and provide support for military women past, present, and future.

SWAN is a driving force behind laws and policies that seek to change military culture, increase opportunities for women, eliminate sexual violence, and adequately address the needs of women Veterans.

They have also developed a network of carefully vetted resources that are uniquely qualified to address the challenges that women Veterans and service women face; including healthcare and housing access, employment and transition, alternative therapies and legal services.


SWAN was born out of frustration and necessity. In 2007, a group of women Veterans found each other due to a mutual problem: they were all having a difficult time getting their VA claims approved. These women were also were also troubled by the way they were treated in VA clinics and offices. This shared experience led to the formation of the Service Women’s Action Network as a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Despite their initial focus on VA claims, they quickly realized many of the problems women Veterans faced stemmed from the harassment and assault they experienced on Active Duty. At the time, the VA did not recognize sexual assault as a potential source of post-traumatic stress the way it did combat stress. SWAN made it a priority to spotlight the issue of military sexual assault in order to bring meaningful change. To achieve this, the organization spent years working to make sexual assault visible inside and outside the military.

SWAN worked with lawmakers and policymakers to achieve the following:

  • Pass or update laws to better support victims of military sexual assault
  • Hold perpetrators accountable for their actions
  • Get sexual assault-related post-traumatic stress recognized by the VA

SWAN has been a powerhouse when it comes to shaping the outcome of a broad range of issues that affect Active Duty and Veteran women. SWAN was directly involved in:

The Lawsuit: Eliminating the Combat Exclusion for Women

In 2012, SWAN filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense over its policy of excluding women from 250,000+ ground combat jobs. SWAN believed that excluding women from key jobs and assignments contributed to making women less respected and more vulnerable as a minority population within the military.

The lawsuit was effective: the combat exclusion was eliminated in 2013. By 2016, the military began integrating women into previously closed occupations and units.

I Am Vanessa Guillen Act

Before Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen was brutally murdered in 2020, she told her family that she was being sexually harassed by an unnamed sergeant at Fort Hood, and that complaints by other female soldiers made against the sergeant had been dismissed. After her murder, SWAN’s commitment to MST-related advocacy became more focused than ever. The organization poured nearly all of its efforts into the I am Vanessa Guillen Act and other legislative and policy efforts to fully address sexual assault and sexual harassment within the military.

The 2021 Defense Authorization Act included key parts of the I am Vanessa Guillen Act. It was signed into law on December 27th, 2021.

Important changes include:

  • Criminalizing sexual harassment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice
  • Improving how certain officials respond to sex-related offenses through independent investigations
  • Removing the decision to prosecute sexual misconduct cases from the service member’s chain of command, which is a clear conflict of interest 

The DoD also recommended establishing a separate UCMJ article to send a clear message that such behavior is unacceptable and may result in severe consequences.

The Deborah Sampson Act

This act brought sweeping healthcare reforms for women Veterans. A few of the main achievements include:

  • Establishing a dedicated Office of Women’s Health within the VA healthcare system
  • Eliminating barriers to care by staffing every VA with a dedicated women’s primary care provider
  • Giving relevant training to clinicians who provide women’s healthcare
  • Retrofitting VA facilities to create privacy for women
  • Expanding MST counseling for former National Guard and Reserve members
  • Requiring a GAO report on VA efforts to support homeless and at-risk women Veterans

Information is power. Since 2016, SWAN has conducted original research on a variety of topics important to servicewomen and veterans. You can read about combat ground integration, reproductive health, where women stand in the military, and other research reports SWAN has published here.


From now through May 31st, 2024, a portion of all sales in the Lady Vet Shop will be donated directly to the Service Women’s Action Network to help further their powerful work for women Veterans. Shop with us and help make a difference for women Veterans past, present, and future!

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Lady Vet is supportive of nonprofit organizations doing the best work to address the most pressing issues that women Veterans face. Do you know of a relevant nonprofit we should be highlighting, large or small? If so, please reach out to hello@ladyvetusa.com for consideration.

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