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VA Pride Isn’t Just in June

A group of Washington DC VA Medical Center employees, thier families and Veterans pose in front of a decorated bus at the Capital Pride Parade in June, 2022..

In June, VA’s blue and gold welcomes a rainbow of colors in support of LGBTQ+ Pride Month. But caring for Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender-diverse Veterans is something employees at Washington DC VA Medical Center are proud to do every day of the year.

Stephanie Guedj, Psy.D., is the LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator at Washington DC VA Medical Center. In her role, she serves as a source of information and Veteran advocate and ensures effective, affirming Veteran-centered care for LGBTQ+ Veterans.

“LGBTQ+ Veterans experience unique challenges and healthcare disparities compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers,” said Guedj. “For these reasons, it's important to have programming, like the LGBTQ+ Care Coordinator, that is tailored to them and can serve as a point of contact to navigate and connect with LGBTQ services.”

Some of the comprehensive services LGBTQ+ Veterans can receive at Washington DC VA Medical Center include:

  • LGBTQ+ support groups
  • Affirming mental health care
  • Affirming Whole Health services
  • Affirming medical care
  • Affirming recreation therapy
  • Outreach and community engagement
  • Gender-affirming services and prosthetics 
  • Gender-affirming voice and communication services
  • HIV and STI testing, counseling, and care, including PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for Veterans at risk for HIV

In addition to health care services, Guedj can help Veterans change their preferred names and pronouns in their records, so that their VA providers can address them correctly. She also provides resources and advice for Veterans who may find it difficult to come out to their VA provider. As a Veteran LGBTQ+ Care Coordinators, she’s equipped to support the health, welfare and dignity of all Veterans and their families, but Guedj said she’s not alone in the mission to support and provide for LGBTQ+ Veterans; it is a shared mission by all at the medical center.  

“All of our employees receive training to care for the unique needs of LGBTQ+ Veterans,” said Guedj. “This is a team effort, and we are all here to care for and support you.”

To show their dedication to and support of LGBTQ+ Veterans, medical center employees and their families will be out in colorful style at the Capitol Pride Parade and Festival on June 10 and 11. Washington DC VA Medical Center had participated in the parade and festival since 2013 and Guedj said the tradition is important not only to show support, but to reach Veterans who may be hesitant to seek the benefits they have earned.

“Many Veterans who served under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, faced discrimination and dishonorable discharges just for being who they were. By being out here and being visible with our support, we hope to send a message to so many who are watching. If you served this country, regardless of how you identify, we are ready and proud to provide you the health care you have earned,” she said.

Veterans who were other-than-honorably discharged due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV-status under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy may be eligible for VA benefits, and Guedj provides resources to help them get their discharge status updated.

“You signed up to serve, to put your life on the line just like every other Veteran we care for. It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is or how you identify, we are here to provide you with the benefits you have earned,” she said.

To learn more about LGBTQ+ Health Care services at VA, or to connect with the LGBTQ+ Veteran Care Coordinator, visit: LGBTQ+ Veteran Care | VA Washington DC Health Care | Veterans Affairs

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