San Francisco VA Health Care System
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Program
The San Francisco VA Health Care System (SFVAHCS) is committed to providing top quality care to all Veterans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Veterans.
Welcome LGBT Veterans. We thank you for your service!
You Are Not Alone
America is home to an estimated one million LGBT service members and Veterans who have served in the US military with honor and distinction. We recognize that diverse populations have distinctive needs, and we train our staff in culturally and clinically competent care for LGBT Veterans. SFVAHCS is focused on providing the most respectful health care environment possible.
We hope you choose SFVAHCS and join our growing team of Veterans and staff to build upon our LGBT Veteran community and health care system in this exciting time of increasing inclusion and improving access to care.
Stephen M. Rao Fellowship
in Interprofessional LGBT Health Care
San Francisco VA Health Care Sysem has a Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow program specializing in Interprofessional LGBT health care. Our current fellow, Anja Bircher, PsyD, is stationed at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), Bldg. 8, and is also available Wednesdays at the Downtown San Francisco VA Clinic (401 3rd Street). The fellowship was established nationally to promote LGBT-affirmative knowledge and practices across VA Medical Centers and to propel the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to become a leader in LGBT health care.
Dr. Stephen M. Rao, one of the founding psychologists and supervisors of this fellowship, and a beloved colleague at SFVAHCS, passed away from cancer in May 2014. In honor of Dr. Rao's 20-plus years serving LGBT and other underserved populations, and his time specifically working with Veterans, we have named our local fellowship in his honor. Dr. Rao was a dearly loved colleague, mentor, and supervisor to all who knew him, and a role model for many individuals in his personal and professional life. His tireless service to reach out to Veterans and his fellow colleagues to provide support and guidance continues to impact those lucky enough to have known him. Our hope is to continue Dr. Rao's legacy of compassionate, Veteran-centered care to all of the Veterans we serve here at SFVAHCS.
Affirmative Psychotherapy Services
Along with other trained staff, Dr. Bircher provides both individual psychotherapy and group therapy for Veterans identifying as LGBT, and/or questioning. Additional services include family and couples therapy for LGBT Veterans. For example, counseling is available for Veterans wanting to explore their gender identity and for transition-related concerns. Counseling may also be useful for Veterans wanting to explore their sexual orientation/identity. Additional services include family and couples therapy for LGBT Veterans.
Some Veterans just want to learn more about what LGBT-related services and supports are available. We can provide consultation directly to Veterans and to providers in those cases. Every Veteran has the right NOT to be “outed” as LGBT in their medical record by any provider. Our providers know that gender expression, identity, and sexuality can be personal issues, especially for our Veterans. Each Veteran has the right to decide what works best. We encourage very open and collaborative conversations with your health care providers about this personal choice.
The SF Downtown VA Clinic at 401 3rd Street (at Harrison) offers a Gay, Bisexual, & Questioning Men’s Health & Wellness Group on Wednesdays from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. At the main San Francisco VA Medical Center (4150 Clement Street, San Francisco) in Bldg. 8 there is a Trans Health & Wellness Group offered the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of each month from 5 – 6:30 p.m.
These groups are broadly focused on positive mental health and physical health coping strategies and behaviors that promote overall wellbeing. The groups are structured around a check-in with all group members and a group discussion about the topic of the day.
These groups are safe places to discuss personal issues and what the VA offers in terms of LGBT care. The groups are facilitated by the psychology fellow in Interprofessional LGBT Health Care. To learn more, contact Anja Bircher, PsyD, at (415) 221-4810, ext. 2-3107.
Longstanding Gay/Bisexual Men's Psychotherapy Group
At the main hospital location (SFVAMC, a.k.a. “Fort Miley”), the Gay/Bisexual Men’s Psychotherapy Group is a weekly group for men interested in working on personal growth in a group format. It is led by two mental health professionals and has consistent membership from week to week (not a drop-in format). Contact Rob Daroff, MD, at (415) 221-4810 ext. 2-4366, for additional information.
Individual Counseling for LGBT Veterans
To make an appointment for individual LGBTQ counseling, contact staff psychologist Michael Burnias, PsyD, at (415) 281-5126; or psychology postdoctoral fellow Anja Bircher, PsyD, at (415) 221-4810, ext. 2-3107.
LGBT Special Emphasis Program
LGBT VA staff and heterosexual allies are invited to participate in the LGBT Staff and Allies Special Emphasis Program of the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
The goals of this group are to:
• raise awareness about LGBT Veterans and staff at SFVAHCS
• provide support and social opportunities for LGBT staff
• increase hiring at SFVAHCS of LGBT persons, particularly Veterans
• increase enrollment at SFVAHCS among LGBT Veterans
• to provide mediation for LGBT concerns and issues
For more information about the LGBQ Special Emphasis Program contact Michael Burnias, PsyD, at (415) 281-5126. For more information about the Transgender Special Emphasis Program contact Lauren Moody at (415) 680-7202.
LGBT Community Outreach
The LGBT Staff and Allies Special Emphasis Program is actively involved in the recruitment of LGBT Veterans and distribution of information about VA health care services available through outreach at community events, round table community discussions, pride festivals and parades. For more information about participating in community events contact Lauren Moody at (415) 680-7202.
Relevant Policies and Services
Non-discrimination: Our non-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (actual or perceived) (VHA Directive 1019).
Visitation: SFVAMC allows for a same-sex partner, family member, friend, or other individual to be present with the patient for emotional support during the course of their stay. Same-sex partners are recognized as the patient’s family, even if the parties are not legally married.
Advanced Directives: Patients may designate any person as a decision-maker for care should they become unable to make these decisions. This includes designating a same-sex partner as a surrogate decision-maker. Advanced Directives agents are chosen by the Veteran and do not need to be biologically related.
Documentation in Medical Records: San Francisco VA maintains the confidentiality of information about sexual orientation and sexual behavior, as it does with all other private health information.
Changing Your Name and/or Gender in Your Medical Record: Your name in the medical record will reflect your legal name. You have the right to request that name and gender are updated as appropriate. There are established procedures for changing your name and gender, available from the SFVAMC Privacy Officer at (415) 221-4810, ext. 2-2135.
Concerns and/or Complaints: If you feel you are not being provided with compassionate care at San Francisco VA, we encourage you to make your concerns known. Concerns regarding a specific Service (e.g., Mental Health, Primary Care) should be directed to the corresponding contact person for that Service. This information can be easily found on this website through the Services page. In addition, you are encouraged to discuss any concerns with our Patient Experience Specialist at 415-221-4810, ext. 2-6650, located in Bldg. 200, Ground floor lobby, Room GA-154.)
Additional Resources for LGBT Veterans
Click here for additional LGBT resources.
- Bldg. 8
- 415-221-4810 Ext. 2-3107
Hours of Operation
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.