Veterans Affairs Holds Health Fair for LGBTQ+ Veterans in Indianapolis
There was a health fair Friday at the Irsay Family YMCA put on by the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs local office.
One million disabled veterans in the United States are described as LGBTQ+ by the organization Disabled American Veterans. Veterans Health Indiana's Marc Zaremski says it's hard to know how many are in Indiana since some don't want to disclose the info, but he says it might be around 2,000-3,000.
In the past, LGBTQ+ veterans have sometimes been discriminated against and denied their benefits. In 1993, the US Military adopted a policy called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT). It prohibited lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members from disclosing their sexual orientation while they were serving in the military.
The UCLA's Williams Institute estimates that this resulted in more than 13,000 service members receiving discharges that were less than honorable. Also, service members who tested positive for HIV were not given an honorable discharge. Veteran's benefits cannot be received if they do not have an honorable discharge.
Transgender service bans prevent transgender people from serving. Furthermore, the VA cannot perform gender-affirming surgery.
Zaremski says that because of policies like this, many LGBTQ+ veterans are distrustful of VA. Additionally, many veterans are unaware that once again, they are entitled to full VA benefits.
VA announced in September that veterans who got a less-than honorable discharge based on their gender identity, sexual orientation, or HIV status will get full benefits.
Zaremski thinks the health fair is a great chance for the Indiana chapter of the VA to gain some trust and give LGBT veterans the services they deserve and need.
Zaremski, an advocate for veterans, hopes this will be an annual event where veterans get options for health care based on their needs.
Veterans who require assistance in accessing their benefits may contact the Veterans Services department of VA Indiana Healthcare System.