Updates from the VA Office of Health Equity

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May 25, 2017

June Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar

Chronic conditions 3 panel

Please join the Office of Health Equity for the June 2017 Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar titled, “Chronic Health Conditions among Vulnerable Veterans: Current Research and Action.” Event description and registration information is below.

 Chronic Health Conditions among Vulnerable Veterans: Current Research and Action

 Thursday, June 29th, 2017
3:00 – 4:00 PM (EST)


Event Description

June’s Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar session spotlights recent publications on chronic health conditions and disparities among vulnerable Veteran patient groups.  Panelist will discuss the following: 1) demographic variability in the prevalence of chronic health conditions and disparities among Veterans using primary care in VHA; 2) recent efforts in using VA data to systematically characterize health and healthcare disparities in VA for vulnerable Veteran groups; and 3) operational and research partnerships executed by the Office of Health Equity to advance the goals of the VA Health Equity Action Plan. 

Confirmed Speakers

  • Jessica Y. Breland, PhD
    VA Palo Alto Healthcare System, Palo Alto, CA
  • Donna L. Washington, MD, MPH
    VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA  

  • Uchenna S. Uchendu, MD
    Chief Officer, Office of Health Equity, Washington, DC

Background Resources 



Visit the Office of Health Equity website at https://www.va.gov/healthequity/ for more details about Veteran health equity issues, VA’s strategic plan to achieve health equity for Veterans (Health Equity Action Plan), and to learn more about the Focus on Health Equity and Action Cyberseminar series.

Learn How VA Uses Data to Characterize Health and Healthcare Disparities in the VA with the Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center

Despite some progress in eliminating or reducing health disparities in the VA healthcare system, health and healthcare disparities unfortunately exist for some vulnerable Veterans. The Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center, led by Dr. Donna L. Washington, Principal Investigator, was established to support the Office of Health Equity’s efforts to better understand the extent of these disparities and engender appropriate actions. Join Dr. Washington this month as she discusses the work of the Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center.

Using VA Data to Characterize Health and Healthcare Disparities in VA

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017
12:00 – 1:00 PM (EST)


Event Description

The Office of Health Equity-QUERI Partnered Evaluation Center uses VA data to systematically characterize the health and healthcare disparities in the VA for vulnerable Veteran groups. This presentation will describe the challenges and strategies for using VA data to measure characteristics of vulnerable populations, such as race/ethnicity and socio-economic status. The cyberseminar will also present findings on health and healthcare disparities in the VA.


  1. Describe the data sources and data decisions used to construct vulnerable population characteristics, such as race/ethnicity and measures of socio-economic status.
  2. Describe variations in patient experiences of VA care and in VA care quality by vulnerable population characteristics.


Additional Resource

Are You a Veteran or a Family Member of a Veteran Facing Challenges in Your Everyday Life?

Veteran Mental Health Awareness

May is National Mental Health Month. The Office of Health Equity has joined the efforts of the Make the Connection initiative to help raise awareness of mental health and supportive resources. MakeTheConnection.net is an online resource that connects Veterans, family members, friends, and others supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives.

The Office of Health Equity is pleased to share select videos of Veteran stories of recovery that have been tailored for some Veteran groups most likely to experience health and healthcare disparities and other challenges. All videos can be viewed on MakeTheConnection.net or YouTube.

Together, we can raise awareness and offer support for challenges our nation’s Veterans and their families may be experiencing.

Racial or Ethnic Group      

  • Group therapy to overcome PTSD and stress - Ari, an Army Veteran, served in Vietnam. Both combat and the racism he encountered caused stress. When he came home, he was on edge and angry. Different sounds brought him back to Vietnam. After time in prison, he sought treatment for PTSD. Group therapy with other Vietnam Veterans supported Ari through his recovery and reduced his stress. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/595


  • Women Veterans’ inspiring true stories - Women Veterans represent an enduring legacy of leadership, service, and sacrifice. Each woman’s experience is unique, yet many face similar challenges while serving in the military and after returning to civilian life. Hear inspiring stories from women who discovered ways to stay strong and find success. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/457

  • Leading and living strong after facing adversity - From an early age, Trista knew she wanted to be in the military, and she proudly served in three branches. For a long time, she didn't acknowledge the effects that military sexual trauma was having on her life. After years of not recognizing the emotional effects of her experience, she told a VA counselor about it and changed her life for the better. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/17 
  • Paige found a new perspective through treatment - Paige served in the Navy and the Army National Guard. The sexism she experienced in the service affected her. She pushed through things, but eventually felt confused and hopeless. She called a crisis line and was connected to VA care. A combination of medication and therapy helped Paige. Her relationships have improved and she is happier now. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/567  
  • Every day there were issues with sexual harassment - Marylyn talks about circumstances that led to sexual harassment while she was deployed. Sometimes people would find excuses for inappropriate physical contact. Other times there were unwelcome advances when she was alone and isolated on duty. These things added to the stress and difficulty that she was already experiencing on active duty. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/104  
  • When We Were Young 60 Second - Age and experience bring independence. But it’s also important to remember the strength that comes from asking for help — like we did when we were young. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/654


  • A healthy and fulfilling life for older Veterans - Retirement and aging can be challenging. For those Veterans who have difficulty adjusting, connecting with counseling and therapy can ease this transition. Listen to these Veterans talk about how they found solutions to live well as they get older, leave jobs, and start their next phase of life. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/640  

Sexual Orientation  

  • Finding complete recovery years after serving - Monty knew he was gay before he entered the Navy, but he hid who he was so he could join. He drank a lot both during his service and after he got out. After a number of DUIs, Monty went to Veterans Court and entered a recovery program. Through counseling and group therapy, he has stayed sober. Now, Monty feels free to be open about who he is. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/584  
  • Overcoming PTSD and MST one day at a time - Besides dealing with stressful combat situations, Tracey felt betrayed by people she thought were her friends and experienced military sexual trauma. With the help of VA, unique Veterans' programs, and supportive family and friends, Tracey continues to move toward a more fulfilling life, every day. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/137  

Military Era/Period of Service 

  • I wish I had addressed it when I first came back - Jesse came back from Vietnam and felt like he had to hide his service. He thought others couldn't understand him, he felt depressed, and had marital problems. Years later, Jesse visited VA and found professionals to help him with his long-standing issues. Jesse knows he may always face challenges, but by accepting support, he can overcome them. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/232

Disability – Cognitive, Sensory, Physical

  • Coping with TBI to improve quality of life - Veterans who have experienced TBI, including some who didn't know they had a traumatic brain injury until later, talk about their experiences. Listen as they describe the signs and symptoms of TBI and its effects on their families. By reaching out for help, they were able to overcome these obstacles and live better lives. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/179 
  • Recovering and living well after physical injury - Veterans who experienced physical injuries talk about their experiences. As they recovered and transitioned from the military, they faced difficult circumstances. Reaching out for support helped them overcome their challenges. Listen as they share stories of strength and resilience. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/436 
  • Finding inner strength and fortitude - A blood clot caused Leslie to lose her leg and ended her military career. She began to isolate herself and thought other people viewed her differently because of her prosthetic leg. Leslie recognized she had to learn to look at things in new ways. Going to a Vet Center helped her get in touch with her inner strength and turn her thinking around. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/231

Mental Health           

  • Strength Over Silence PSA - Facing life’s difficulties — whether they’re physical challenges or struggles you can’t see — takes determination. Learn how other Veterans chose strength over silence and reached out for help. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/660  

  • Reaching out for help led to a better life - Reaching out for help can be difficult. Support from a loved one, advice from a fellow Veteran, or a desire for self-improvement and wellness can help a Veteran take that step. When faced with challenges, Veterans may find that help and support give them the strength to overcome their obstacles. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/637  

  • Treatment works and recovery is possible - Hear Veterans just like you tell their stories of strength, resilience, and recovery. Although their individual problems may differ, these Veterans share similar experiences of reaching out for support from loved ones, fellow Veterans, and the professionals at VA. They were all able to find solutions that worked for them and get back on track. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/184  

  • Bipolar treatment got them back on track - Listen as Veterans describe living with bipolar disorder and finding treatment that works. Racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, and emotional ups and downs sometimes made their lives difficult. With professional support, they discovered ways to manage symptoms and succeed. They encourage other Veterans to take advantage of resources for living well. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/553 

  • Brenda found the support she needed to live well - Brenda was injured while in the Army Reserve. Later she felt stressed, had panic attacks, and heard voices. When she went to VA, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and PTSD. She began gambling and fell into debt. Gamblers Anonymous and a VA budgeting class helped Brenda stop gambling. With ongoing VA support, she is living well. https://maketheconnection.net/stories/643