Why is it important to come out to your health care provider?
Coming out to your health care provider is an important step in maintaining your health. To see that you receive the best care possible, your health care provider needs to know who you are. Information about your sexual orientation and gender identity will prompt your provider to ask specific questions about potential risks to your health and offer appropriate health screens.
If you do not feel comfortable opening up to your provider about your sexual orientation or gender identity, ask for another VHA provider. It’s important for you to be able to trust your health care provider.
Tell your provider about the medicines you have taken and the surgeries you have had. Information about your full health history will enable your provider to determine the best treatment for you.
What should I know about coming out at VA?
As a Veteran who identifies as LGBTQ+, you may have faced discrimination or other challenges throughout various stages of your life. For example, some people hear anti-LGBTQ+ comments or have had interactions that make them feel unsafe disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Others may have experienced discrimination or even trauma when they came out. Some Veterans have faced pressures to hide their identity, particularly during their military service. Others have wrestled with stress in deciding whether and when to come out to family members, friends, or fellow Veterans.
Although coming out may be daunting, hiding your sexual orientation or gender identity is also stressful and can be harmful to your health. VA understands these challenges and wants to help you focus on improving your quality of life. There are resources that can help.
What should I know about VA’s policies toward Veterans who identify as LGBTQ+?
VA is dedicated to being a leader in health care for LGBTQ+ Veterans and provides high-quality care in a sensitive, respectful environment, including support and resources for: mental health challenges; tobacco/alcohol/substance use; sexually transmitted infections; prostate, testicular, colon, anal, breast, ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancers; and fitness and heart health. In addition, VA’s patient care policy prohibits discrimination based on personal characteristics including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
It is important for you to know there are VA policies that protect your rights as a Veteran who identifies as LGBTQ+. You cannot be denied services or benefits at VA because of your identity.
If I come out to my provider, will this information be shared?
No. Your conversations and the information you share with your VA provider are confidential. You can also ask that this information not be entered into your medical record. However, medically necessary information, such as a diagnosis, must be included in your medical record to ensure that your providers have a complete picture of your health and that you are receiving the best care possible.
Finding a provider you are comfortable with is essential to your health and wellness. If you are not comfortable with your VA provider or do not feel you are being provided compassionate care, please contact your facility’s Patient Advocate and/or the LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator.
What health issues should I know about as a Veteran who identifies as LGBTQ+?
Studies have shown that Veterans who identify as LGBTQ+ are at an increased risk for elevated levels of stress. This stress can increase the risk for certain mental and physical health conditions.
As a group, Veterans who identify as LGBTQ+ have elevated rates of the following behaviors and conditions that can affect their health:
- Smoking, problem drinking, and substance use
- Anxiety, trauma exposure, and depression
- Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection
- Some cancers
Veterans who identify as LGBTQ+ can also face forms of bigotry and discrimination that can cause the loss of employment, housing, child custody, or physical or sexual assault. These challenges and events can also lead to stress and anxiety, as well as social withdrawal and low self-esteem.
Take the next step to connect with care.
Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.
New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.
- Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
- Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
- Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
- Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.
Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.
- If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
- With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Community-based Vet Centers provide confidential counseling, community engagement and referral services to eligible individuals and their families. You don’t need to be enrolled in VA healthcare or have a service connection to receive services. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-927-8387, 24/7 to talk with a fellow Veteran about your experiences.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.