Aging LGBT Military Service Members and Veteransedit
The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the experiences and needs of aging sexual and gender minority (SGM) veterans. Significant demographic changes in the composition of aging military veterans have taken place. Most noticeably since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” attention has been drawn to this population of older veterans and their specific mental, physical, and psychosocial health care needs. Recent policy, program, and research initiatives have begun to address the significant health disparities of this population of older adults. SGM veterans are more likely to report higher rates of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and are more vulnerable to homelessness and unemployment when compared to the general population of older lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adults. Aging SGM veterans may also carry a heavy burden as a result of their experiences as service members and may be reticent to disclose their sexual identity with formal veteran service programs. Access to and utilization of social care networks and social support for SGM aging veterans is a serious concern. Isolation, poorer health outcomes, and increased chronic health conditions may exacerbate the marginalization this older adult population has experienced. A majority of SGM veterans will utilize community-based services, and it is essential that all health care professionals understand the unique needs of this cohort of older adults. Future directions for research, policy, education, and service delivery are explored.