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VA opens first health clinic for transgender veterans

For the first time, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital is opening a clinic for transgender patients.

Transgender veterans will be able to receive primary care, hormonal therapy, mental health care and other services at The Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, starting this month.

Dr. Megan McNamara, a primary care and women's health doctor who began working with transgender patients a couple of years ago, will head up the clinic. Her team will be made up of other VA staffers including a nurse, psychologist and social worker.

"As far as we know, this is the first dedicated transgender clinic" in the Veterans Affairs medical system, McNamara said in a statement provided by the medical center.

The clinic ribbon-cutting ceremony today marks a move forward for the VA medical system, Evan Young, president of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), told CBS News.

"The VA has been stepping up their game," Young said.

All of the providers in the new clinic have a special interest in transgender health care and say they will create a welcoming environment for transgender veterans seeking care, according to the medical center.

The clinic will handle an initial enrollment of 20 transgender veterans, ages 21 to 75, for a half-day on Thursdays each month.

McNamara said studies show that the number of transgender veterans seeking services at the VA is five times higher than it is in the non-veteran population.

"I feel there are a lot of transgender patients in the veteran population who haven't been able to find the care they need," she said. "I really want to be able to provide comprehensive, one-stop care for those patients in a welcoming environment."

Young said there are an estimated 134,000 veterans who are transgender and 15,500 transgender service personnel are believed to be on active duty.

The medical center said it will serve only transgender veterans -- active-duty military personnel receive health care through a different system under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense.

There are specific health care concerns for transgender veterans, including mental health care and hormone level care, that require a specialist, said Young.

"You should have somebody who is trained and understands what those levels are," Young said. "Patients need a health care provider who is sensitive and has the actual clinical knowledge and experience to treat transgender patients."

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