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Experiences in the Veterans Health Administration and Impact on Healthcare Utilization: Comparisons Between LGBT and Non-LGBT Women Veterans.

Shipherd JC, Darling JE, Klap RS, Rose D, Yano EM. Experiences in the Veterans Health Administration and Impact on Healthcare Utilization: Comparisons Between LGBT and Non-LGBT Women Veterans. LGBT health. 2018 Jul 1; 5(5):303-311.

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PURPOSE: This study aimed to compare experiences related to healthcare of LGBT women and non-LGBT women in a sample of routine users of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) primary care services and examine the impact of those experiences on delaying or missing appointments for VHA care. METHODS: Women veterans (N? = 1391) who had at least three primary care visits in the previous year at 12 VHA facilities were surveyed by phone in January-March 2015 in a baseline wave of a cluster-randomized quality improvement trial. The majority identified as non-LGBT (1201; 85.6%) with 190 (14.4%) women identified as LGBT, based on items measuring sexual orientation and gender identity. RESULTS: In models controlling for demographics, health status, and positive trauma screens, LGBT identity was predictive of women veterans experiencing harassment from male veterans at VHA in the past 12 months, as well as feeling unwelcome or unsafe at their VHA. Compared with non-LGBT women veterans, LGBT women veterans attributed missing needed care more often in the previous 12 months to concerns about interacting with other veterans. Participant descriptions of harassment indicated that male veterans' comments and actions were distressing and influenced LGBT women's healthcare accessing behavior. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with non-LGBT women, LGBT women were more likely to report harassment and feeling unwelcome at VHA. Some LGBT women reported delaying or missing needed care, primarily due to concerns about interacting with other veterans. Additional work is necessary to help LGBT women veterans feel safe and welcome at VHA facilities and, thereby, reduce barriers to LGBT women veterans accessing needed care.

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