Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Veterans’ Experiences in the Veterans Health Administration: Positive Signs and Room for Improvement

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Abstract

This study explored the characteristics of lesbian, gay, and transgender veteran users of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) services and nonusers, using a national convenience sample. Participants responded to an online, anonymous survey posted on LGBT websites and forwarded through personal contacts, using a snow-ball sampling strategy, resulting in a final sample of 218. Most participants were enrolled in VHA (n = 151). VHA users were older, more ethnically diverse, had less income, and were less public about their sexual or gender minority identity than nonusers. VHA users and nonusers did not differ on depression, anxiety, alcohol use, or tobacco use; although VHA users had more physical limitations and chronic medical conditions and lower health literacy than nonusers. Most lesbian, gay, and transgender VHA users felt welcome at their facility and comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation and gender identity with their provider. Compared with earlier studies, the positive experiences of lesbian, gay, and transgender VHA users in this study provide supportive evidence that VHA staff training efforts to raise awareness and competency have been successful. Additional efforts are needed to understand why transgender men feel less welcome and comfortable disclosing their gender identity.

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