Respect Diversity + Inclusion

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs passes bill to create center for LGBTQ+ veterans

Rep. Kaiali‘i Kahele (D-HI), the bill’s sponsor, said the measure will provide LGBTQ+ veterans with “the services they need to address the unique challenges they face.”
(Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

Story at a glance


  • The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would create a center for LGBTQ+ veterans within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

  • LGBTQ+ veterans and active-duty service members face unique challenges in accessing health care, and are more likely to experience depression, PTSD and sexual assault.

  • The VA has in recent years adopted more inclusive policies to better serve LGBTQ+ veterans. In January, the department announced that transgender and nonbinary gender designations were available for official medical documents.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee this week advanced legislation to create a center for LGBTQ+ veterans and better address the unique obstacles they face in accessing adequate health care.

Under the Serving Our LGBTQ Veterans Act, a center for LGBTQ+ veterans would be established within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). A director would be appointed to advise the VA on the adoption and implementation of policies and programs affecting LGBTQ+ veterans, according to the bill.

“LGBTQ veterans experience disproportionate risk to sexual assault, suicide, PTSD & other chronic conditions,” Rep. Kaiali‘i Kahele (D-HI), the bill’s sponsor, tweeted Tuesday after the measure had been passed. The legislation, he said, is necessary to “address the unique challenges” faced by LGBTQ+ veterans.

Research on the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ veterans and active-duty service members is fairly limited, in part because of now-obsolete policies like “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), which forced LGBTQ+ military personnel to conceal their identities.


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But existing research highlights a need for a more tailored approach to health care for LGBTQ+ veterans. Lesbian, gay and bisexual veterans who served under DADT, for instance, are more likely to experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, a 2013 study found.

In a 2019 study published in the journal Health Equity, LGBTQ+ veterans reported frequent discrimination in health care settings. Many said they were uncomfortable with disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity to their health care provider.

Research into the experiences of LGBTQ+ female veterans found that LGBTQ+ women were more likely than non-LGBTQ+ women to report feeling unwelcome or unsafe while accessing health care services at VA medical facilities.

A 2017 study by researchers affiliated with the VA’s Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) and the Williams Institute, however, found that, among 298 transgender veterans that used VA health care, 79 percent said they were satisfied with their medical care and 69 percent said they were satisfied with their mental health care.

In recent years, the VA has adopted more inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly policies, and Denis McDonough, the department’s secretary since 2021, has been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

In January, the VA announced that all U.S. veterans may self-select their gender designation in official medical records. The department in December began offering new gender identifiers for medical records, including transgender and nonbinary options.

“Our goal is to align the department’s policies and procedures with the president’s vision for a more inclusive government,” McDonough said in a statement at the time.