Queer veterans face more health problems than cis and straight peers, study finds

· Updated on June 7, 2024

Though all veterans have unique needs when it comes to healthcare, LGBTQ+ veterans are especially vulnerable to health problems according to a new study

The study, conducted by the Rand Epstein Family Veterans Policy Research Institute, analyzed national data to compare the health of queer veterans to their straight and cisgender peers. Researchers found that LGBTQ+ folks had poorer health conditions in a number of categories, from accessibility of healthcare to chronic conditions and mental health.

Some key differences noted by the researchers include that any veterans not identifying as heterosexual were significantly more likely to not have been able to afford medical care in the past year; that lesbian and gay male veterans are significantly more likely to smoke cigarettes than straight veterans; that queer veterans across the board showed much higher odds of lifetime major depressive order; and that diabetes is far more likely among gay and trans veterans than cis and straight veterans.

Notably, researchers also found that a state’s degree of LGBTQ+ acceptance is directly linked to that state’s access to healthcare for LGBTQ+ folks.

“Our findings underscore the importance and urgency of efforts to improve health services and outcomes for LGBTQ+ veterans, including actions to ensure that all those veterans are able to use the benefits for which they are eligible and can access appropriate care when needed,” wrote the study’s authors.

So, what can be done to improve health conditions for queer veterans? The study’s authors have four central recommendations: targeted efforts to increase healthcare accessibility for LGBTQ+ veterans; raising awareness of the government’s policy of upgrading less-than-honorable discharges for veterans who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to get them access to full benefits; expanding the Veterans Health Administration’s  LGBTQ+-affirming services; and conducting further studies on the relationship between a state’s LGBTQ+ acceptance and healthcare for queer veterans. 

Those action items may be easier said than done, but recognizing them is an important first step to eliminating the gap between LGBTQ+ veterans and their non-queer peers. Check out the full study on the Rand Institute’s website.

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