157454 Reflections on policy and practices: LGBT veterans' experiences while in the military

Monday, November 5, 2007: 1:30 PM

Annesa Flentje, MA , Department of Psychology, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Tracy L. Simpson, PhD , Mental Health (116MHC), VA Puget Sound Health Care System - Seattle Division, Seattle, WA
Kimberly F. Balsam, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Bryan N. Cochran, PhD , Dept. of Psychology, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
LGBT veterans comprise a significant proportion of our military forces, yet "don't ask, don't tell" policies make this group a silent component of our veteran communities. Veterans' research does not query about sexual orientation or gender identity; therefore very little is known about LGBT veterans. This study queried LGBT veterans via an online survey, gathering information regarding their experiences while serving in the military and following discharge. The survey was completed by 445 participants (27.2% female, 64.7% male, 8.1% transgender or other). Overall, participants endorsed having been investigated regarding their sexual orientation (36.2%, n = 161), isolated from their unit due to sexual orientation (14.8%, n = 66) with 2.0% experiencing incarceration, and forced to do a psychiatric evaluation due to sexual orientation (11.7%, n = 52). When analyses on these same variables were conducted comparing participants who left the military prior to (n = 245) and after (n = 177) the implementation of "don't ask, don't tell," few differences emerged. Sixteen percent of the respondents (n = 71) said that they were forced to leave the military due to their sexual orientation, and these respondents were more likely to avoid using Veterans Administration services due to their perception of how they would be treated ( Χ2 = 14.9, p < .001). Additional analyses will be presented regarding the experiences of LGBT veterans while in the military and following discharge. This study has implications for both the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and for health care workers aiding LGBT veterans.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe common experiences of LGBT individuals while in the military. 2. Identify how selection bias may have influenced the survey data and results. 3. Describe the common experiences of LGBT veterans.

Keywords: Sexuality, Veterans' Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.