Veterans with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and related identities face increased health risks and unique challenges in accessing quality health care that is delivered in a welcoming, inclusive environment.
During Pride Month (June), VA was pleased to announce that 59 VA facilities are designated as a “2018 LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Leader” by the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index (HEI). This annual, independent survey is a valuable tool for LGBT Veterans looking for both great health care and participating health care facilities.
“The index gives Veterans a website to go to and see where they can get inclusive health care in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Lorry Luscri, LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital.
“It’s helpful for Veterans receiving care within VA, but may be even more helpful for those receiving care elsewhere. It helps encourage unenrolled Veterans to explore their options and then choose VA care.”
Luscri sees a lot of advantages for LGBT Veterans to receive care at VA. She describes VA care as health care specifically designed for Veterans and care that leverages state-of-art technologies to offer Veterans safety, security and convenience.
“It’s health care tailored to Veterans by knowledgeable and informed staff,” said Luscri. “It comes with a sense of community for Veterans that is often difficult to find in care settings outside VA. The bond between Veterans is very unique and no one understands them better than our staff and the Veterans who get care here.”
The HEI has been around since 2007 and Luscri began managing Hines’ involvement shortly thereafter. She says participating in the index has helped to raise the standard of care for LGBT Veterans at VA in many ways. Hines, like other VA medical centers, has used HEI related resources to identify and implement best practices and staff training at the facility.
VA making enhancements to LGBT program nationwide
In past years, facility staff may have been trained using materials developed by the Human Rights Campaign, but this year, Hines began offering staff in-house training developed by Hines staff called EVOLVE—Engaging Voices of LGBT Veterans Everyday. This is evidence of the program’s evolution and VA’s commitment to deliver excellent care to all Veterans.
In addition to local-level program advancements, VA is making enhancements to its LGBT program nationwide. These enhancements include:
- Launching LGBT care websites for each facility;
- Increasing awareness of the availability of facility-level and regional-level LGBT Veteran Care Coordinators that serve as resources for Veterans and staff; and
- Promoting use of the new medical record demographic fields for Birth Sex and Self-Identified Gender Identity (SIGI).
It’s implementation of initiatives, like these and others, that have helped VA facilities earn the HEI Leader designation. The index rates hospitals and healthcare facilities on policies and best practices in four key areas: Non-discrimination and staff training; Patient services and support; Employee benefits and policies; and Patient and community engagement.
Participation in the HEI is voluntary and open to all healthcare organizations in the U.S. with 100 or more employees. This year, VA medical centers made up 13 percent of all 2018 HEI participants. In addition to the Leader designations, 25 other VA facilities were designated as Top Performers.