Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center, Saginaw, Michigan
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Veteran Care
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VHA) is committed to providing quality care to all Veterans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Veterans. Excellent care has no boundaries.
Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center, Saginaw, Michigan seeks to promote the health, welfare, and dignity of LGBT Veterans and their families. We are committed to making sensitive and high quality health care accessible. Our policies and practices focus on ensuring a safe, welcoming, and affirmative environment of care for LGBT Veterans. Our employees receive training in clinically competent care that is responsive to the unique needs of LGBT Veterans.
Policies - Patients & Families
- Our Patient Non-Discrimination Policy specifically prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (actual and perceived).
- The Saginaw VA Visitation Policy 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. Same-sex partners are recognized as the patient’s family, even if the partners are not legally married.
- Advance Directives: As a patient, you may designate any person as a decision-maker for care should you become unable to make these decisions yourself. This includes designating a same-sex partner as a surrogate decision maker. Advanced Directive agents are chosen by the Veteran and do not need to be biologically related. Please inform staff if you desire to create an Advance Directive.
- Documentation in medical records: Saginaw VA maintains the confidentiality of information about gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior, as it does with all other private health information. We encourage you to inform your healthcare provider of your sexual orientation/gender identity so appropriate care can be provided.
- Changing your name and/or sex in your medical record: There are established procedures for changing your name and sex within your medical record. If you would like a copy of the fact sheet on how to change your name and/or sex in CPRS, please let your health care provider know so they can obtain a copy for you.
- Definition of Family: Saginaw VA defines “family” as any person(s) who plays a significant role in an individual’s life. This may include individual(s) not legally related to the individual. Members of “family” include spouses, domestic partners, and both different-sex and same-sex significant others.
Upgrading discharge characterizations
Veterans can now answer a series of questions to get customizable step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a discharge upgrade or correction via the VA website How to Apply for a Discharge Upgrade.
The discharge characterization for Veterans discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) or previous policy should accurately reflect the character of their service. This is not always the case.
Service members who were discharged under DADT generally received an Honorable or General Under Honorable Conditions discharge based on their service records. However, a service member discharged for a “Homosexual Act” that involved a so-called “aggravating factor” might have been given an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge characterization. Most of the factors on the list (such as acts involving minors, prostitutes or coercion) constituted unacceptable behavior and should have resulted in an OTH. But there were two “aggravating factors” that did not inherently constitute misconduct and that should not necessarily have resulted in OTH discharges. These were acts committed openly in public view (e.g., holding hands at a restaurant) and acts committed on base or on post (e.g., a quick hug while being dropped off).
In addition, the Navy and Marine Corps gave those discharged for “marriage” or “attempted marriage” an OTH, while in the Army and the Air Force, members discharged for same conduct received Honorable or General Under Honorable Conditions discharges, based on their service record.
Service members discharged under the pre-DADT policy were very likely to receive discharges that were less than Honorable. Less than Honorable discharge characterizations can have lifelong consequences, such as limiting the Veteran’s access to the GI Bill or Veterans Administration healthcare. Former service members who received a less than Honorable discharge characterization that is not reflective of their service are eligible to apply to have that discharge upgraded to mirror their service.
All branches of the military consider Veteran to have a strong case for a discharge upgrade if they can show their discharge was connected to sexual orientation, or mental health conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); traumatic brain injury (TBI); or sexual assault or harassment during military service.
A Note About Discharges Based on Gender Identity
Despite transgender veterans being on the front lines of the fight to end DADT, transgender service members did not benefit from the DADT repeal. Even though the policy prohibiting transgender service was officially lifted on June 30, 2016, subsequent changes in 2017 and now-pending litigation have reinstated and then suspended ban implementation. A new implementation plan from the Secretary of Defense is expected to be released February 21, 2018. There remains considerable uncertainty about how discharges of Veterans based on gender identity may be handled in the future. For now, Veterans who were administratively discharged due to gender identity may also seek to have the categorization of their discharges upgraded as appropriate.
Several non-VA organizations may also be able to help you challenge your discharge characterization, change your narrative reason for discharge, or upgrade your re-entry code.
OutServe-SLDN* represents the US LGBT military community worldwide. Their mission is to: educate the community, provide legal services, advocate for authentic transgender service, provide developmental opportunities, support members and local chapters, communicate effectively, and work towards equality for all.
The National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force* includes attorneys, legal workers, law students, and “barracks lawyers” interested in draft, military, and Veterans issues. Since the late 1970s, it has been a standing project of the National Lawyers Guild.
American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER)* is the nation’s only LGBT Veteran Service Organization (VSO) recognized by the Veterans Administration. AVER provides advice, support, and referrals to LGBT Veterans regarding their rights and benefits, and helps Veterans procure the documents they need to access VA services. Many LGBT Veterans received less-than-honorable discharges because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, both under DADT and prior policies, and are unjustly denied access to their VA benefits. Such discharges can now be upgraded, but the process can be complex, slow, and cumbersome. AVER works to help LGBT vets with less-than-honorable discharges get access to legal assistance to help them navigate this process, and is dedicated to streamlining the discharge upgrade process so Veterans can access healthcare and other vital services from the VA.
LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) Program
As of March 2016, each VA facility has a local LGBT Veteran Care Coordinator (VCC) who is appointed by their facility leadership. The VCC is responsible for promoting best practices for serving LGBT Veterans and connecting LGBT Veterans to services.
To learn important information about the unique health risks of LGBT Veterans, download these relevant fact sheets. Here you can also find information about relevant services offered by VA.