LGBTQ Veterans Feel Uncomfortable Seeking Care at VA

Many LGBTQ US veterans feel uncomfortable seeking mental health care and substance abuse treatment from Veterans Affairs clinics, despite the repeal of the Don’t Act Don’t Tell policy that barred open service among sexual minorities.

An article in Task & Purpose, a news site written by and for veterans, details the experiences of some LGBTQ vets. Ramond Curtis, a gay vet whose story was highlighted in the article, felt that the PTSD treatment offered by VA psychologists did not address his particular lived experiences, noting that he had to “steer the conversation” because “I could feel the standard treatment. It didn’t match me.” He expressed the lingering fear and discomfort that exists for many LGBTQ vets after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, disclosing that, “[a] lot of veterans, even from my generation, aren’t comfortable being open about their sexuality and their sexual preferences at the VA.”

Because this lack of transparency can damage patient care, some LGBTQ servicemembers seek treatment from their own network. Additionally, Strive Health is an outpatient clinic that has partnered with OutServe-SLDN (an LGBTQ resource group for veterans and military members) to provide mental health and substance abuse counseling specifically for LGBTQ vets. The staff will receive cultural competency training and, because the organization is tailored to the LGBTQ veteran community, there will be programs that might not exist in civilian therapy centers, such as a survivor’s guilt group.

While the VA does have directives that guide staff on LGBTQ issues, it is Strive’s approach of layering military and LGBTQ cultural competencies that Curtis feels would have helped him. It is important for providers to acknowledge the distress that LGBTQ vets may feel in seeking healthcare and to seek proper training to be culturally competent. Even with the VA’s LGBT Health Program, established in 2012, there is a significant need for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs for LGBTQ vets; cultural competency training can help address this need.

You can access the article in Task & Purpose here: https://taskandpurpose.com/lgbtq-veterans-strive-military-health-care/

You can learn more about the LGBTQ competency training services offered by QSPACES here: https://www.qspaces.org/lgbtq-training/