Program Aims to Empower LGBTQ Veterans to Seek Healthcare

Nadia Ramlagan | Public News Service
It's estimated there are around one million LGBTQ veterans who served in the various branches of the U.S. military. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A ten-week education program that focuses on sexual orientation and gender identity aims to reduce health disparities among LGBTQ+ veterans.

Dr. Tiffany Lange, clinical psychologist at the Veterans Health Administration (VA), said many veterans are unsure about what services are available or are concerned they could face discrimination.

She explained perceived stigma can prevent people from revealing their sexuality and accessing medical treatment provided by the military.

“And so, we’re sharing the relevant information about how to have a conversation with a medical provider, and empowering our veterans to get connected to the services most relevant to their overall healthcare, so that we can promote wellness and social connectedness,” Lange explained.

Research suggests general mental health and wellness is poorer among LGBTQ+ individuals compared to other groups, and lesbian and bisexual female veterans are significantly more likely to report frequent mental distress, low satisfaction with life, and sleep problems than heterosexual veterans.

According to the VA, of the more than 222,000 Arkansas veterans, it’s unclear how many identify as LGBTQ+.

Lange added every VA facility across the country has at least one LGBTQ+ veteran care coordinator available. Individuals just have to contact their local office.

“They can go to va.gov and locate their local LGBTQ+ veteran care coordinator, who is a point of contact, who can assist them in navigating the relevant services.”

Lange acknowledged there is more work to be done to identify the services the LGBTQ+ population needs.

“And so, constantly striving to improve, identify what those needs are, and most importantly, send a message that VA is welcoming of all who have served.”

Last week, in a speech commemorating Pride Month, President Joe Biden announced the Department of Health and Human Services would protect against discrimination in healthcare services.

Earlier this year, Biden rescinded a military ban on openly transgender service members.

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