, PA — VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System has been named an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 15th anniversary edition of the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI).
The biennial index is the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey of health care facilities on policies and practices dedicated to the equitable treatment and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees.
“We are pleased to once again be recognized by HEI for our LGBTQ-inclusive policies for Veteran patients, their families and our staff,” said Denise Boehm, VAPHS acting director. “The top-performer designation assures LGBTQ+ Veterans that when they walk through the doors to any of our facilities, they will receive high-quality health care in a safe and welcoming environment.”
The designation is the ninth time VAPHS has received the highest possible HEI rating for federal facilities. VAPHS in previous years scored 100 out of 100 to earn HEI’s LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader designation. It scored 95 out of 100 in 2022, which is now the highest possible score for federal facilities because HEI has revised its scoring criteria. With the revision, HEI deducts five points from all federal VHA health care facilities because VA’s LGBTQ+ Policies do not yet provide gender-affirming surgeries.
“At VA Pittsburgh we work hard to create an environment where LGBTQ+ Veterans feel seen, heard and respected,” said Kristen Lyons, VA Pittsburgh LGBTQ+ Veteran care coordinator. “We take pride that we continue to achieve the highest score possible for federal agencies and respect HEI’s decision to revise their criteria. It is an honor to serve LGBTQ+ Vets and we are looking forward to when we may be able to offer gender affirming surgery as part of health care benefits.”
VA Secretary Denis R. McDonough in June 2021 announced VA is “taking the first necessary steps to expand VA’s care to include gender confirmation surgery, thus allowing transgender Vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.”
The HEI evaluates and scores health care facilities on detailed criteria falling under four central pillars:
- Foundational Policies and Training in LGBTQ+ Patient-Centered Care;
- LGBTQ+ Patient Services and Support;
- Employee Benefits and Policies; and,
- Patient and Community Engagement.
A record 906 health care facilities actively participated in the 2022 HEI survey, with 251 rated as top performers. VAPHS is one of three facilities to earn the top performer designation in western Pennsylvania. Of those, it is the only one that serves Veterans and their families exclusively.