Ensuring Appropriate Care for LGBT Veterans in the Veterans Health Administration

Hastings Center Report 44 (s4):53-55 (2014)
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Abstract

Within health care systems, negative perceptions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons have often translated into denial of services, denial of visitation rights to same‐sex partners, reluctance on the part of LGBT patients to share personal information, and failure of workers to assess and recognize the unique health care needs of these patients. Other bureaucratic forms of exclusion have included documents, forms, and policies that fail to acknowledge a patient's valued relationships because of, for example, a narrow definition of “spouse,” “parent,” or “family.” Bureaucratic exclusion has taken a particularly prominent form in the U.S. military. Until its repeal and termination in 2011, the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy had for eighteen years barred openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. Among the effects of DADT is a dearth of information about the number and needs of LGBT service members who transition to the Veterans Health Administration for health care at the end of their military service. The long‐standing social stigma against LGBT persons, the silence mandated by DADT, and the often unrecognized bias built into the fabric of bureaucratic systems make the task of creating a welcoming culture in the VHA urgent and challenging.The VHA has accepted a commitment to that task. Its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2013 through 2018 stipulates that “[v]eterans will receive timely, high quality, personalized, safe, effective and equitable health care irrespective of geography, gender, race, age, culture or sexual orientation.” To achieve this goal, the VHA undertook a number of coordinated initiatives to create an environment and culture that is informed, welcoming, positive, and empowering for the LGBT veterans and families whom the agency serves.

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