Just in time for Veterans Day, the Veteran Affairs (VA) Boston Healthcare System has issued a landmark memo to its employees about providing quality care to transgender veterans who use the medical facility.
According to Bay Windows, "The memo mandates that veterans will be addressed and referred to by VA staff according to their self-identified gender both in verbal exchanges and in patient records. Patients will also be given rooming assignments and access to facilities such as restrooms based on their self-identified gender. The memo explains that while federal law prevents the VA from providing patients with sex reassignment surgery, the VA will provide hormone therapy and mental health services to transgender patients according to the accepted standards of care."
"Transgender patients will be cared for in an environment of openness, respect and honesty," reads the memo, in part. "A veteran’s physical status, surgical history, hormonal status, and medications are private, but should be available to providers directly involved in the veteran’s care. In this way the veteran is assured quality care, minimized risk of adverse pharmacological events (e.g., in the case of hormonal medication prescriptions), and provided with a supportive environment free of discrimination."
Monica Helms, president of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), told the paper that, "The thing is there are other facilities that are doing what is in this policy. The difference is these other places don’t have a written policy, so it’s almost like the doctors that are there who treat transgender individuals, they decided this is how they’re going to do it, and the only difference is Boston decided to put it down on paper."
But the difference is important, too. By putting guidelines for treatment in writing, the hospital shows a concrete willingness to hold accountable hospital staff who do not follow the guidelines and to being front-and-center about what transgender patients can expect when they seek treatment there.
The memo was written by VA clinical psychologist Dr. Jillian Shipherd. Originally, Shipherd worked with others in the Boston area to conduct trainings about transgender healthcare, focused on three areas: general trans healthcare and barriers to care, HIV prevention for trans patients, and mental health and substance abuse issues in the trans community, according to Bay Windows. Then, six months ago, she began working on the memo.
"I have to tell you I have received nothing but positive and helpful comments. There have been no attempts to block this policy at all," said Shipherd.
And that, on this Friday eve of Veterans Day, is very good news for transgender vets who have so bravely served our country.
Originally posted at Frontlines.