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Embracing diversity, VA builds more paths to equitable care

All Veterans are unique, and by the diversity of the very people we serve, we know that health care is not one-size-fits-all. Embracing that diversity in our patients and staff ensures that we deliver on VA’s promise to provide world-class care and benefits to all Veterans―regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or geographic location.

Thanks to our Equity Action Plan, VA is continuing to improve outcomes and eliminate disparities in Veteran benefits and health care. That includes increasing access to VA services, including for historically underserved Veteran communities.

“It’s our job to provide every Veteran with the world-class care and benefits they deserve, no matter who they are, what they look like, who they love, where they are from, or how they identify,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

That means meeting Veterans where they are, and embracing and encouraging diversity in our team.

Equity among employees

Serving the most diverse group of Veterans in history means reaffirming our commitment to hiring staff that reflects that diversity. Even as we offer an equitable environment to Veterans, we must also ensure that employees feel supported and comfortable at work.

“One of the reasons why I’m working to protect LGBTQ+ [Veterans and staff] is because I’m part of that community. I have a responsibility on my shoulders to work for my community to feel protected,” said Jorge Santiago, a Whole Health coach at the San Juan VA Medical Center.

“We have a Latino community, we have a Black community that work here, [and] we have a community of age 50-plus workers that need to feel their rights are being considered,” Santiago continued. “We work with management and administration [to ensure] that these rights continue to be provided to the employees.”

At VA, it is important to us to show our teammates that we are invested in long-lasting and sustainable change. We care about you, respect your talents, desire your skills and commitment, and want you to bring your whole self to work each day as you care for our Veterans.

“We each bring a different strength to the table,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA. “Your strength may offset my weakness, or my strength compliments another’s strength. And, like the military, VA encourages our staff to be as diverse as our Veterans.”

Equity without borders

Ensuring equitable access to care also means providing care where Veterans live. Almost a quarter of all Veterans in the United States return from active military careers to reside in rural communities.

VA needs providers who understand why these communities appeal to Veterans, and people who can embrace the same enjoyment that comes from these locales.

Near rural facilities like those found in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Veterans embrace the different energy of their communities, enjoying a slower pace of life and access to nature.

“In Puerto Rico, there’s no other place to work that has the same culture here than we have at the VA,” explained Gerald Marin-Garcia, an attending physician in San Juan, Puerto Rico. “If you like to help people that try to help you, the VA is the place.”

No matter where Veterans choose to call home, it is part of our duty to make sure that they can still rely on the presence of VA. Those who work in rural facilities acknowledge the importance of the different experiences, skills, perspectives, and insights a diverse team can offer to the Veterans we serve.

“What I love about this area is that it’s a small-town feeling. Everybody knows everybody,” said Dr. Victoria Prutz, dental chief at Butler VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania. “Our patients, they do travel, some of them over an hour, just to come to Butler. They want to come here, versus a bigger facility. They know everybody, and they feel comfortable here.”

Work at VA

At VA, we remain focused on fostering an environment where inclusivity and equity are woven into the fabric of our teams. Find your place with us.

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