In 2011, when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was repealed, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) looked at ways to optimize healthcare for LGBT veterans. The VA medical centers were encouraged to participate in the HEI. In the past, SAGE has consulted with local Veterans receiving care at the VA and helped them navigate the system. We reached out to VA and invited them to be a part of our LGBT Health Access Roundtable.
Sometimes all it takes is one person to champion a cause. The nurse in charge of the VA LGBT Diversity Council learned of the trainings being conducted by SAGE and invited us to join the VA LGBT Diversity Council. This Council interacts with all levels of the VA to help ensure that the local VA is meeting all requirements set forth at the federal level to ensure LGBT health access.
A critical change was recognizing that LGBT patients may have concerns related to fair treatment and access. The VA created an LGBT liaison who is available to help LGBT patients navigate the system and request a new doctor if they are not comfortable with the care being received. Over the past year, the work at the VA in St. Louis has grown to include a robust offering of LGBT Health Cultural Competency Trainings provided by VA employees and SAGE. We are currently in the process of developing a schedule of trainings for SAGE to present on a monthly basis.
SAGE recognized the VA with the first SAGE excellence in community care award at our 5th Anniversary celebration. SAGE presented them with a plaque and asked all Veterans in the audience to step forward so the VA could see those impacted by LGBT care.
2014 is shaping up to be another good year for the VA. They’re making plans to attend their 2nd Pride Festival, continuing to identify things they can do to be more LGBT inclusive, and are offering ongoing LGBT health trainings.