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700 Ohio female veterans gather

– Cassandra Renfroe says she didn’t know how to reach out for veterans benefits and other help when she left the Marine Corps seven years ago.

But Renfroe, one of more than 700 women veterans attending the Ohio Women’s Veterans Conference in Columbus on Saturday, said she has seen improvement in services for female veterans since then.

“When I got out, I didn’t know where to turn or what was out there,” said Renfroe, 33, of Canal Winchester. “There is more help out there now, but there needs to be more follow-up. Veterans need to be asked what they need.”

She and others attending the conference heard national and state veterans officials talk about the strides that have been made in services and resources for female veterans, but even they acknowledged more can be done.

“We’ve had a lot of catching up to do,” said Betty Moseley Brown, associate director of the national Center for Women Veterans, an arm of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

As of Sept. 30, 2012, there were 2.24 million women among 22.3 million living U.S. veterans, according to Brown. She and others addressing the group urged them to reach out to others to let them know about available services.

Brown said online benefits information is providing better access and veterans officials are working with the military to get more of that information out to men and women before they even leave the service.

Renfroe, who says she served in the Marines from 1998 through 2006, is a nurse and says she often encounters patients who are veterans but don’t know they are eligible for help or are reluctant to seek it.

Tina Walker, 55, of Columbus, says it is still difficult, especially for older veterans, to get through the obstacles of applying for and receiving benefits.