Here's how the VA is taking PRIDE in LGBTQ veterans

PRIDE
The Department of Veterans Affairs PRIDE program helps LGBTQ veterans navigate their health care options. Photo credit Department of Veterans Affairs
By , Connecting Vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a PRIDE program designed specifically for LGBTQ veterans.

The PRIDE in All Who Served program helps VA employees engage with those veterans. It grew out of a health education group discussion in 2016, said Dr. Tiffany Lange, Veterans Health Administration clinical psychologist and LGTBQ care coordinator.

“The LGBTQ veterans were absolutely essential in figuring out what topics are important to them and identifying what services they wanted to learn more about in the VA,” she told CBS’ Eye on Veterans.

The care coordinated  program focuses on reducing health care disparities. Group facilitators follow a session-by-session manual with corresponding handouts on each topic. The manual includes information about how to access relevant services within the VHA. That allows veterans to learn more about their identity and why that matters in regards to health care.

“They can learn about different services within the VA and  get referrals to those services,” Lange said.

An investment from the VHA Innovators Network allowed the effort to spread across the VA ecosystem, Lange said.

“Now we are in 32 VA facilities with plans for national dissemination across the ecosystem,” she said.

Lange said the PRIDE program focuses on how to integrate sexual orientation and gender identification into a veterans overall health care plan.

“The PRIDE program looks at a more expansive view of what are healthy relationships, what are the dynamics of healthy relationships, what are some of the unique stressors and what are also the unique strengths of diverse relationships,” she added.

Approximately 500 veterans have benefitted from the program since 2018, Lange said.

“LGTBQ identity is not a mental health disorder,” she said. “It’s all focused on wellness and empowering our veterans to get involved in health care.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough’s recently announced that VA is moving to offer transgender veterans gender confirmation surgery. Lange said it could take a year or two to put policies in place that would allow that.

“It is absolutely an exciting thing to look at the expansion of gender confirmation services,” she said.

Veterans who identify as gender diverse and who wish to pursue gender transition intervention can receive an evaluation of readiness to make that permanent medical decision.

“They can engage in hormone therapy with gender confirmation,” Lange added.

The program also offers gender-affirming prosthetics – such as wigs and binders that adjust bodily shape – to LGBTQ veterans.

Also factored into VA’s LGBTQ services are mental health and substance treatment.

“Those are part of larger, comprehensive services offered within VA,” Lange explained. “The unfortunate reality is LGBTQ individuals may be more at risk for certain stressors or societal discrimination.”

Lange said that after taking part in the PRIDE program, veterans have said they no longer want to commit suicide and have found their community.

To learn more about the PRIDE program visit here.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.

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