Message from Monica Diaz, Executive Director, VHA Homeless Programs Office - VA Homeless Programs
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VA Homeless Programs


Message from Monica Diaz, Executive Director, VHA Homeless Programs Office

June 2023

Monica DiazEach year, June marks the beginning of summer. School is out, families are going on vacations, and people are enjoying the good weather. But since 1970, it has also represented something far more significant in the LGBTQ+ community: Pride Month.

The concept of Pride Month began with the Stonewall riots, a series of riots for gay liberation that took place in June 1969. Although pride marches were held in several cities the following year, it wouldn’t be officially recognized by the federal government until 1999, when President Bill Clinton declared the anniversary of the Stonewall riots every June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. 

In 2011, President Barack Obama expanded the officially recognized Pride Month to include the whole of the LGBT community: “I... proclaim June 2011 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.” 

We celebrate the many contributions LGBTQ+ individuals have made to American society — from the arts and education to healthcare and national security. We stand alongside the LGBTQ+ community and show them our support. 

We recognize the work that still needs to be done to achieve equality. 

VA is committed to proving quality care to all Veterans, and we are hard at work expanding the services we offer to address the specific concerns and needs of LGBTQ+ Veterans. 

In support of these goals, all VA facilities employ LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinators, who help Veterans find culturally competent service providers. Each VA Medical Center has a list of LGBTQ+-specific resources, and VA staff is always available to help all Veterans without judgment, shame, or stigma.

VA is a place that welcomes Veterans from all walks of life — a place that serves those who served. This can be seen reflected in our updated mission statement that VA released this March. The new mission statement is inclusive of all who have served our country — including women, LGBTQ+, and communities of color — and recognizes Veteran families, caregivers, and survivors.

We want every Veteran to see themselves reflected in our mission statement and realize we are here to serve everyone equally. 

Our internal Dignity and Respect Campaign supports this very cause, designed to educate Veterans and VA employees on the basic building blocks of creating and sustaining inclusive and safe environments.

Through recognizing seven pillars of dignity and respect, we hope to teach Veterans and VA staff not only what it means to be an ally, but also to be a champion for our fellow community members. 

June’s pillar emphasizes joining the team.

We have all had moments where we are new to a team or group. In those moments, we may express a different point of view or a new idea. Sometimes we're sitting at a table where we look different than everyone else on the team.

It’s in those moments that we can choose to fully engage with the team or stand and watch from the sidelines. It’s also in those moments that other members of the team can choose to welcome new members and value different perspectives.

In the spirit of joining the team, I was lucky enough to attend the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans 2023 Annual Conference this month, meeting boots-on-the-ground team members and participating in a compelling discussion on the Federal Partners Panel. Through these interactions, I shared my ideas and perspectives with new people in a safe space anchored in dignity and respect.

Jill Albanese Federal Agency Staff AwardI was also proud that the Coalition recognized the VHA Homeless Programs Offices' own Director of Clinical Operations Jill Albanese, with the 2023 Federal Agency Staff Award, celebrating her dedication and leadership in addressing Veteran homelessness.

I encourage you to find an opportunity this month to go above and beyond to be inclusive in your personal or professional life. This could be making a conscious effort to connect with people who are not the same as you, reaching out to a new team member who could use a friend, or adding your pronouns to your email to indicate that you are an ally.

You never know the impact you can make with one simple choice. If you want to support change, now is the time to take action.