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GAO report: VA needs to do better job tracking, treating LGBT patients

A recent report says LGBT vets were more at risk for suicide and mental health issues, and the VA must do a better job to help care for them.

WASHINGTON — A report from the Government Accountability Office said the Veterans Affairs Department needs to do a better job when it comes to patients who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

In the report, the GAO says the VA does not consistently collect data on sexual orientation or gender identity.

As a consequence, it continues, LGBT vets may experience higher rates of depression or thoughts of suicide.

"LGBT people locally, when we have people when they come here that have been to the VA, the issue that they face is that they feel ostracized, and they feel like their identities are neglected," said Stacie Walls-Beegle, the executive director of the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk. 

"That leads to them having suicidal thoughts or having mental health issues that need to be addressed," Walls-Beegle said.

The report recommended that the VA  improve its data collection and analysis to better understand the needs of LGBT veterans.