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LGBTQ+ Veteran care

VA Charleston health care employees receive training in clinical care that is responsive to the unique needs of LGBTQ+ Veterans. Our trained LGBTQ+ Veteran care coordinators are fully equipped to support the health, welfare, and dignity of you and your family.

LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities. The ‘Q’ refers to queer identities, as well as those who are questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The + sign is meant to be inclusive of sexual orientations and gender identities beyond LGBT, including pansexual, asexual, agender, gender non-conforming, gender diverse, nonbinary, gender neutral and other identities.

Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System seeks to promote the health, welfare, and dignity of LGBTQ+ Veterans and their families. We are committed to making sensitive and high-quality health care accessible. Our employees are prepared to provide personalized, patient-centered care in a safe, affirming, and welcoming environment.

Care we provide at VA Charleston health care

Our LGBTQ+ Veteran care coordinators can answer your questions, advocate for your right to quality care, handle complaints or concerns you have about your care, and help you get started with any of our services for LGBTQ+ Veterans. These include:

  • Mental health services, including psychosocial assessments for hormone therapy and gender confirming surgeries
  • Creative arts therapies
  • Hormone therapy
  • Gender-affirming prosthetics
  • Testing, counseling, and care for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, including PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for Veterans at risk for HIV
  • Other prevention, screening, wellness, and testing services

Policies and practices to know

The care coordinator can help you get started with care or with navigating any of these issues.

Visitation: A same-sex partner, family member, friend, or other individual can be present with the patient for emotional support during the course of the patient's stay.

Definition of family: "Family" may include individual(s) not legally related to the individual. Family members include spouses, domestic partners, different-sex and same-sex significant others.

Advance directives: Veterans may designate any person as a decision-maker for care if they won't be able to make these decisions themselves. This includes same-sex partners. Advance directive agents are chosen by the Veteran and do not need to be biologically related.

Documentation in medical records: VA Charleston maintains the confidentiality of information about sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and gender identity, just like any other private health information.

Changing name or sex in records: Your name in your medical record will reflect your legal name. The sex in your medical record should reflect your self-identified gender. You have the right to request that your name and sex are updated as appropriate. There are established procedures for changing your name and sex with the VA Privacy Officer.
 

How to make a name change

Transgender Veterans may ask to change their name in CPRS. Before a Veteran can change his or her name in CPRS, individuals must FIRST legally change their name in a court of law, following the law in their state of residence. To do this, consult the National Center of Transgender Equality at https://transequality.org/. A Veteran does not need to be on cross-sex hormones or have had any surgical procedures.

After one’s name has been legally changed, individuals may request for a form to complete from the Privacy Office as well as provide the necessary supporting documentation (see below). The request should be submitted in writing to the Privacy Office at the Ralph H. Johnson VA.

A request for a name change in CPRS is a request for amendment of records. It is not considered an administrative request.

  • Official supporting documentation for a name change include the following documents. TWO are needed for a name change:
    • An official name change court order
    • A letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) stating that all required documentation has been received and they will be issuing the requestor a new SSA card
    • A valid State Driver’s license/State issued ID card (Laws regarding change of name on Driver's license vary by state)
    • A new SSA card with the name change
    • An amended birth certificate or valid passport. Expired documents are not acceptable

How to make a gender change

*NOTE: Sexual reassignment surgery is NOT a prerequisite for amendment of sex.

An amendment request to change the Birth Sex requires that the individual submit the request in writing along with one form of un-expired Primary Identification and one form of Secondary Identification that displays the current Birth Sex.  The Primary Identification verifies the person’s identity and the Secondary Identification verifies the updated Birth Sex.

  • Primary Identification
    • State-Issued Driver's License with photo
    • Passport with photo
    • Federal, State, or Local Government-issued photo ID containing name and DOB
  • Secondary Identification

    • Amended Birth Certificate

    • Court Order for Birth Sex Change
    • Signed Licensed Physician’s Statement on Office Letterhead (see requirements below)*
       

*An original statement from a licensed physician must include ALL of the following information:

  • Physician’s full name
  • Medical license or certificate number
  • Issuing state of medical license/certificate
  • Address and telephone number of the physician
  • Language stating that he/she has treated the person or reviewed and evaluated the medical history of the applicant. He/she also has a doctor/patient relationship with the applicant which is evident in having one or more clinical encounters between doctor and patient.
  • Language stating that the patient has had appropriate clinical treatment for Birth Sex transition to the new Birth Sex (specifying male or female).
  • Language stating, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the foregoing is true and correct.”

VHA Services regarding sex reassignment surgeries

  • What VHA Will Do
    • Provide mental health and medical evaluation for sex reassignment surgery (SRS)
    • Provide pre- and post-operative care for SRS
  • What VHA Will NOT Do
    • Provide or pay for sex reassignment surgery (SRS)
    • Provide or pay for cosmetic procedures (e.g., electrolysis)

However, VHA may perform any of the isolated procedures that comprise SRS (listed above) or cosmetic procedures if they are deemed medically necessary for reasons other than gender transition.

VHA Services regarding prosthetic devices

The VA provides the following Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Devices for transgender and intersex veterans:

  • Wigs
  • Packers
  • Stand-to-Pee Devices
  • Gaffs
  • Chest Binders
  • Surgical Compression Vests
  • Breast Forms
  • Dilators

Resources and Support


For more information about the LGBT Health Program, email: VALGBTProgram@va.gov

LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) Program

Every VA facility has a local LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) who can connect you with services and help you navigate specialized resources.

Health Information

To learn important information about the unique health risks of LGBTQ+ Veterans, download these relevant fact sheets. Here you can also find information about relevant services offered by VA.

The Department of Veterans Affairs includes gender identity and preferred name in its national medical record system to help VA providers better understand and meet the health care needs of Veterans. As of June 25th, 2022, VA patients can view, enter and edit their gender identity and preferred name at VA.gov Home | Veterans Affairs. This new feature of VA.gov gives Veterans the ability to enter information about themselves into their health record without going through a VA staff person.  With this new solution, VA is giving Veterans more control and choice when it comes to their healthcare information.

A person’s gender identity conveys essential information about who they are and may signal experiences of stigma and discrimination that can affect their health. Every person has a gender identity.

Many people use a name that is different than the one on their medical insurance or government-issued identification (e.g., driver’s license). This is especially the case for transgender and gender diverse people. Update “Preferred Name” if you’d like staff to use a first name that’s different from your legal name when you come to VA.

To enter your gender identity and preferred name at VA.gov Home | Veterans Affairs, click “Sign In” in the upper righthand corner. Open your profile and click on “Personal Information”.

Once entered in VA.gov, this information will become part of your electronic health record. Your health care providers will see this information and use your responses to provide patient-centered care. Sharing this information helps VA staff and providers know your identity and use respectful terms when delivering personalized care.

Further information can be found in VHA Directive 1341, at LGBTQ+ Health Program, or at VA.gov Home | Veterans Affairs.

Connect with a care coordinator

Kristy Watters

Psychologist, LGBT Coordinator, Special Emphasis Program Manager

VA Charleston health care

Phone: 843-214-7030

Email: Kristy.Watters@va.gov