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Report: VA Failing Service Members by Not Collecting LGBTQ+ Data

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Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Almost a decade after DADT ended, the Veterans Administration is still not tracking information on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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A new report finds the Veterans Administration still has no tracking system on sexual orientation or gender identity and that lack of information means specific medical issues affecting LGBTQ+ vets remains unclear or unknown.

While the VA collects information on race and sex, it does not maintain records on sexual orientation or gender identity among vets, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office and reported on by Military Times.

"With inconsistent data and limited information on health outcomes, (health officials) may not be able to fully identify and address any health disparities faced by LGBT veterans, or provide them clinically appropriate, comprehensive care," the GAO report states.

Officials with the VA previously reported "significant disparities in depression and suicide ideations" among LGBTQ+ vets compared to the general veteran population. That information was mostly culled from informal notes of VA doctors, rather than official cataloging of the population. The dearth of clear information on queer vets makes it difficult to tackle the mental health disparities.

The problem will only grow more apparent as the number of LGBTQ+ veterans rises following the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2011 (new transgender service members are currently barred from military service thanks to Donald Trump, but trans service members "grandfathered" in before the president's ban took effect continue to serve).

The VA appears amenable to establishing a formal policy of asking vets about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The Veterans Health Administration agrees with the importance of collecting data on sexual orientation in order to better understand the unique health care needs of all veterans, especially veterans with lesbian, gay, bisexual and related identities," VA acting chief of staff Brooks Tucker told the Government Accountability Office.

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Neal Broverman

Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.
Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.