The Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System has been recognized as a leader in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.

In the Healthcare Equality Index 2013, an annual survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization, the Minneapolis health care system earned top marks for its commitment to equitable, inclusive care for GLBT patients and their families, many of whom can face significant challenges in securing adequate health care.

The Minneapolis system was one of a group of 464 health care facilities nationwide to be named leaders in GLBT health care equality. Along with the St. Cloud VA, it was one of seven medical centers in Minnesota to be recognized, including Hennepin County Medical Center, Regions Hospital, Park Nicollet, Family Tree Clinic in St. Paul and HealthEast Care Systems.

The report said that a record 718 health care facilities nationwide, including 121 veterans’ medical centers, have explicitly pledged themselves to equal treatment for GLBT patients.

The facilities met key criteria for equitable care, including nondiscrimination policies for GLBT patients and employees, a guarantee of equal visitation for same-sex partners and parents, and GLBT health education for key staff members.

In the wake of the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the VA, the largest integrated health care system in the United States, created a work group to identify ways to optimize care for the nation’s GLBT veterans.

One of the group’s key recommendations was that the country’s 152 VA medical centers should be encouraged to participate in the survey. Only one had previously participated.

Nearly 80 percent of the medical centers in the Veterans Health Administration participated in the survey, and 76 percent of them were awarded the equality leader status.