Our guest blogger is Andrew Cray, a research associate for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress
We recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), marking the end of the discriminatory policy that prohibited gay men and women from serving openly in the military. While the Pentagon has made progress in inclusion for gay active duty service members, major steps have been made elsewhere in ensuring the well-being of gay and transgender people who have served in the military. The Department of Veterans Affairs has been hard at work to ensure that gay and transgender veterans have access to the health care and coverage they have earned.
The VA has been removing barriers to health care access for gay and transgender veterans through inclusive hospital visitation policies, a policy directive to ensure respectful treatment of transgender patients, and a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting unfair treatment on the basis of sexual orientation. These protections reflect the VA’s commitment to inclusivity, and ensuring that all veterans receive the benefits and health care they have earned – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The VA is also taking steps to make sure patients see the implementation of these policies in their local VA health care facilities. The Veterans Health Administration has been providing clinical competency training to physicians to ensure that transgender veterans receive high quality, comprehensive health care. This is particularly important given the lack of attention to transgender health issues in medical schools and the widespread discrimination and abuse that transgender patients face in health care settings. To ensure that respect and equality are reflected in programs Department-wide, the VA is also developing broad trainings on gay and transgender cultural competency, as well as an inclusive language guide for VA staff and medical providers. The Department is taking the additional step of calling on its health facilities to hold themselves accountable for implementing these programs by encouraging participation in the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index.
While there is still work to be done to ensure that gay and transgender veterans receive equal access to the benefits and privileges they have earned, the Department of Veterans Affairs has responded to the community’s call for fair treatment. This emphasis on serving all veterans with respect and dignity should continue to guide the VA’s policies to care for all who have served their country.