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The VA Releases Its Equity Action Plan

 

Last updated 5/17/2022 at 3:04pm | View PDF

In response to Executive Order 13985, the Department of Veterans Affairs has now released its Equity Action Plan.

The order, signed in January 2021, was intended to bring equity to underserved communities, such as Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and others, as well as lesbian, transgender, LGBTQ+ and gay persons, as well as those who live in rural areas. The role of the White House Domestic Policy Council was to formulate and implement the administration's policy objectives and embed them across federal government. Hence the VA's newly released Equity Action Plan.

The VA's highest priorities are to provide all veterans with world-class health care, ensure that veterans and their families can access benefits and honor veterans with a final resting place as a tribute to their service.

And it must be done in a fair and impartial way, with tools and resources for all veterans, by eliminating barriers and creating opportunities. To ensure this, the VA will:

- Develop data for equity strategy (capture the demographics so women, LGBTQ+, Blacks and others can be identified),

-Improve access (reduce barriers by "creating institutional pathways for underserved vets to increase awareness" of VA benefits and services),

- Increase contract awards to women-owned businesses and small disadvantaged businesses,

- And address health equity for underserved veterans (which is impacted by race, gender, income, education and more).

VA officials already have started taking steps. For example, they have expanded the gender-affirming care and benefits package for LGBTQ+ veterans. (The VA provides all medically necessary gender-affirming care to transgender veterans, short of surgical interventions.) Additionally, they've instructed VA adjudicators to classify as eligible for benefits any veteran who was discharged due to sexual orientation, gender identification or HIV status. Medical records now display the patient's birth sex, self-identified gender identity, sexual orientation and preferred pronouns.

To read the details of the plan, go to http://www.va.gov/ORMDI/docs/EO13985-VA_Final_Equity_Action_Plan.pdf

(c) 2022 King Features Synd., Inc.

 

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