The unexpected and caring services for LGBT vets at the DC VA

Matt Saintsing
October 26, 2018 - 4:55 pm

Dreamstime

Veterans, care providers and allies came together to showcase the unique services the DC VA Medical Center and some of its partners offer at a wellness outreach and resource fair for LGBT vets on Friday. 

With October being both LGBT history and Health Literacy month, director of public affairs at the DC VA Gloria Hairston says the occasion is an excellent opportunity to get much-needed information about differentiated health care that can be often too hard to find. 

“We are the one health care system dedicated to caring for veterans, that’s all we do every day, 24-hours a day,” says Hairston. “We are committed to providing safe, quality health care to everyone, including our LGBT community.” 

Photo by Connecting Vets staff

The VA in the nation’s capital stands out offering a bi-weekly psychotherapy support group that aims to build community, strengthens self-acceptance and helps to develop coping strategies to the struggles LGBT veterans face. 

“We do a telephone or in-person screening that’s very brief and then after that folks are welcome to drop in whenever they’re available,” says Dr. Stephanie Guedj, a psychologist with the DC VA. 

“It’s a very warm, supportive environment for other veterans who are LGBT identified.” 

Dr. Kathryn Wagner, also a psychologist, began the support group and says some mental health conditions are over-represented in the LGBT veteran community. 

“Because of being LGBT in the military, and because of 'don’t ask don’t tell' they weren’t able to come out, there are definitely higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse,” she says. 

But not all the services are related to hospital care. Also in attendance was Wigs Plus, a Washington, D.C. based company that focuses exclusively on hair loss services for veterans. 

Working directly with VA clinics nationwide, Wigs Plus is also in Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, and California offering everything from wigs, to other prosthetics for women and transgender veterans.  

“This is one service veterans really appreciate at VA,” says Leslie Williams a founder of Wigs Plus.  

Representatives from the Women's Health Clinic were also the event. Shana Balogun, a registered nurse and maternity care coordinator says the VA applies a holistic approach to care offering endocrinology, gynecology and fertility services.

“The only thing we don’t have is obstetricians, so we can’t deliver babies, but we do have maternity care and do prenatal counseling,” says Balogun. 

If interested, veterans can call the Women Veterans program manager at (202) 745-8345.

     To comment on this or share your story email [email protected].