New legislation in Congress aims to address health care disparities for LGBTQ veterans.
Filed by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., the LGBT VA Advocacy Inclusion Act would include LGBTQ individuals in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definitions of minority group members, according to the Military Times.
“We owe all veterans who have defended our nation access to the health care and benefits we promised, and they have rightfully earned — regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation,” Duckworth said.
A change in definition would allow the VA’s Center for Minority Veterans, established during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, to address gaps in care for LGBTQ service members.
The population suffers higher rates of depression, suicide and other health ailments.
The repeal of DADT in 2011 has led to anachronisms in many facets of the V.A. The agency has an LGBT Program providing outreach to queer veterans, even if they could not come out while they served.
But the agency has not included LGBTQ members in surveys about sexual assault based on a policy the Department of Defense now treat “sexual orientation and gender identity as private matters whenever possible.” That will likely change in the future according to Defense spokesperson Lisa Lawrence.
But Duckworth said her legislation will accelerate the agency in providing specific services addressing challenges of LGBTQ veterans.
“The military’s failure to address this problem is letting down victims and harming our military’s readiness, recruitment and retention efforts,” she said.