VA’s commitment to diversity allows employees to be themselves, serve honestly

LGBTpridemonthServing with pride can be interpreted in a variety of ways to different people. Some serve proudly as Veterans taking care of Veterans. Others serve proudly as friends, family and supporters of our nation’s heroes. Many take care of Veterans proudly (such as women, African Americans, members of the LGBT community, or persons with disabilities); our differences make us strong and our solid commitment to serve Veterans joins us together.

I began working at VA directly out of college as a Veterans service representative at the Des Moines Regional Office. When I started, I wasn’t “out” because I thought letting my true and honest identity show would be difficult to overcome in the workplace and make serving our Veterans more of a challenge. I was dead wrong.

Instead, I noticed VA was a place where differences were embraced and celebrated. Judgments were based less on the color of your skin, your disabilities or sexual orientation and more on the many benefits I brought to the organization. I still remember during my first week at VA, being surprised that one of my co-workers had a picture of her and her girlfriend in her cubicle. How could she do this without fear of retaliation? What did it mean for her career goals? Would she suffer any consequences from being herself? These questions and many more danced through my head.

For the first couple years, I observed my co-worker and learned from her ability to accept herself and continue to serve proudly in whatever task she was given. By her actions, she helped me feel a little more at home, which allowed me to see that wearing a mask would only hurt my ability to serve Veterans in the best way I could.

VA’s commitment to diversity has allowed my co-worker to thrive and permitted me to be myself. Since coming out many years ago, I’ve now had the opportunity to speak openly and honestly with many straight and gay Veterans and help them with specific needs. I’m proud to be serving VA at a time in history where your ability to succeed in your career is not based on sexual orientation but your commitment to our nations Veterans. It has been an honor serving as the co-chair of the 2014 LGBT VACO Planning Committee and I look forward to a successful and worthwhile event!

fiaccobwfrRyan Fiacco is a management and program analyst for the Veterans Benefits Administration’s  education service, strategy and legislative development office.

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8 Comments to “VA’s commitment to diversity allows employees to be themselves, serve honestly”

  1. Dan F says:

    I would much rather the VA have a commitment to veterans, specifically the health care and claims process.

    • Debra King says:

      Dan: I totally agree with you on that subject matter. A lot of veterans has truly been let down and suffered due to the lack of competent service from the VA.

  2. Charles says:

    With thousands of hurting veterans waiting on action by the VA I am personally far more concerned about them than I am your diversity. Isn’t that already the law of the land or is it like the promise of medical care made to those whose bodies have been sacrificed in service of the country who can’t get what has been earned.

  3. Ron says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and your vision, Ryan.

  4. Bruce says:

    Nice piece, Ryan. VA is lucky to have you!!!

  5. Jerry says:

    We’ve got time to mess around with this ridiculous diversity (RACISM) crap and not take care of Veterans?

  6. sarah says:

    I wish that the VA were actually dedicated to people with disabilities. I am a disabled veteran. I worked for the VA and had ask for reasonable accommodation to work part time because it was too painful to work full time. It was denied. I am now unemployed as a result. Perhaps you could develop a program that would allow veterans to work part-time. Most postings on USA jobs is full time only.

  7. Danny says:

    you know I have tried to be open minded I’ve read enough about this gay lesbian transgender month. How come nobody has said anything about this being PTSD awareness month? Are the gays and lesbians more important than those of us that have served our country?I did read the gentleman’s article about PTSD and I did make a comment about the article and I read and made a nice comment about the lady that has a program analyst that is gay. Can we now drop it! How come nobody has written about PTSD awareness?it seems to me that VA is more concerned about being socially acceptable and getting their big bonuses then they are about helping those of us that serve our country. I realize many gay and lesbian people have served their country and I give them the kudos they deserve. I will be so glad when this month is over and we no longer have to listen to them get their pat on the back.