This City Just Became the First to Open a VA Clinic for Transgender Veterans
After being forced to hide their gender identity while serving in the armed forces, transgender veterans face new battles at home, from changing gender markers on discharge forms to receiving proper health care. As the Department of Veterans Affairs works to better care for more than 100,000 transgender veterans, it’s taken a major step forward with one small clinic.
The VA opened its first clinic for transgender patients this week in Cleveland, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
Part of the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, the clinic will start out offering services to 20 veterans on a monthly basis. Along with primary care, transgender patients will receive mental health services and hormone therapy.
“I feel there are a lot of transgender patients in the veteran population who haven’t been able to find the care they need,” Megan McNamara, the physician heading up the clinic, told the Plain Dealer. “I really want to be able to provide comprehensive, one-stop care for those patients in a welcoming environment.”
Although a 2011 Veteran Health Administration directive mandates that all VA facilities respectfully care for transgender veterans, some have reported subpar treatment and discrimination from medical officials. McNamara has worked with transgender veterans over the past two years, some of whom have encountered such problems at the VA or within the private sector.
“I’d run into problems with doctors who are not informed how to treat [transgender patients] or knowledgeable of transgender issues,” Danielle Keller, an Air Force veteran and one of the clinic’s first patients, told the Plain Dealer. “Knowing that we can come to a place that is familiar with our issues helps a lot.”
Transgender people are between two to five times more likely to serve in the military than other Americans, according to multiple studies. There are an estimated 134,000 transgender veterans alive today, and 15,500 active duty members, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Although the 2011 repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual military members to serve openly, transgender people still risk being kicked out of the military if they reveal their gender identity. Pentagon officials are working on a plan to lift this ban on transgender service members by May 2016.