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LGBTQ+ Veteran care

Columbia VA Health Care System 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.

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Connect with a care coordinator

Shantel Edmonds Psy.D.

LGBTQ+ Veterans Care Coordinator

VA Columbia South Carolina health care

Phone: 803-776-4000, ext. 57329


Jessica Jarka

Social Worker

VA Columbia South Carolina health care

Phone: 803-743-8644


we served all who served

Care we provide at Columbia VA Health Care System

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VHA) is committed to providing quality care to all Veterans inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) Veterans. Excellent care has no boundaries.

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.

Columbia 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.

Services for LGBTQ+ Veterans

  • Primary Care
  • Whole Health
  • Infertility Services
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Affirming Spiritual Care
  • Affirming Psychotherapy
  • Suicide Prevention Services
  • Intimate Partner Violence Services
  • Voice and Communication Training
  • Sexual health assessments, screenings, and treatment
  • Mental Health Services including individual and couples therapy
  • Prosthetics Services including breast forms, binders, gaffs, packers, etc.
  • HIV and STI testing and care, including PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for Veterans at risk for HIV
  • Mental Health Group Therapy (depression, smoking cessation, substance use, parenting, mindfulness, anger management, insomnia, PTSD, grief, etc.)
  • Preoperative evaluation, medically necessary pre- and post-operative care, and long-term care following gender affirming surgery 

** The VA does not currently provide or fund gender affirming surgical procedures due to an exclusion in the VA medical benefits package. However, in June 2021, VA began initiating the rulemaking process to attempt to modify the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to expand VA's care to transgender and gender diverse Veterans to include gender affirming surgery. This process is expected to take at least two years.

LGBTQ+ Specialty Teams

The Columbia VA Health Care System has a Transgender Health Care Consult Team. The team has a consult that can be submitted to request many of the services listed above. Shantel Edmonds, LGBTQ+ VCC, is the coordinator for the team. If you have questions about available services, use the contact information listed above.

The Columbia VA Health Care System also has a LGBTQ+ Work Group for patient advocacy and support, staff training, event planning, and community outreach. You can contact the LGBTQ+ VCCs listed above if you have any questions about the work group.

Learn more about the VHA LGBTQ+ Health Program 

Suicide Prevention Services

If you are in crisis, PLEASE call the 24-hour Crisis Hotline at 988 and Press option 1 or visit the Veterans Crisis Line.

Relevant VA Policies and Practices

The Columbia VA Health Care System has a number of policies to ensure culturally and clinically-competent care for LGBTQ+ Veterans.

Non-discrimination: Our non-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Visitation: The Columbia VA Health Care System allows for a same-sex partner, family member, friend, or other individual to be present with the patient for emotional support during the course of their stay.

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

Advanced Directives: Patients may designate any person as a decision-maker for care should they become unable to make these decisions. This includes designating a same-sex partner as a surrogate decision-maker. Advanced Directives agents are chosen by the Veteran and do not need to be biologically related.

Documentation in Medical Records: Columbia VA Health Care System maintains the confidentiality of information about sexual orientation and gender identity as it does with all other private health information.

Changing Legal Name or Sex in Medical 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/or sex be updated as appropriate. There are established procedures for changing your legal name and sex. You can contact the VA Privacy Officer to learn more about the process.

Preferred Name:  VA has a Preferred Name field available for medical records. Veterans can contact the Enrollment and Eligibility Office to request that the name that you go by is entered in the Preferred Name field in your medical record. Once entered by the Enrollment staff, the name will be visible and follows the legal name in your medical record. No documentation is needed to update the Preferred Name field in your medical record.

Pronouns: Your VA provider may not know what pronouns or terms you use. Let providers know the pronouns that you use and how you describe yourself and your partner(s), and they will start to use those words. If they make a mistake, let them know. Your provider wants to help you feel comfortable.

Concerns and/or Complaints: If you feel you are not being provided with compassionate care, we encourage you to make your concerns known. Concerns regarding a specific Service (e.g. Primary Care, Mental Health) should be directed to the contact person for that Service. Contact information for each Service can be easily found on this website through the Services page. You may also discuss any concerns with a Patient Advocate. If you have any questions or concerns that are not about a specific Service or Clinic, you can contact the LGBTQ+ VCC.

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.

Does my sexual orientation or gender identity matter to my health care?

As a result of stigma, stress, and discrimination, LGBTQ+ Veterans face increased health risks and unique challenges in health care. We want you to be comfortable talking with your VA providers about all aspects of your life, so we can offer you the best care possible.

Learn about health risks and why you should talk to your provider about your sexual orientation identity, birth sex, and self-identified gender identity in the fact sheets below.