“If there’s one thing I want to be able to say, it’s that I made sure I helped someone who needed help,” explained Sterling Akins, who wears numerous hats as a leader in VA’s Office of Resolution Management, Diversity and Inclusion.
Every day, he fully lives his mantra: “Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
From helping Veterans with concerns about their care to assisting members of VA’s LGBTQ+ community, Akins shapes VA’s world-class organization, building trust and a sense of integrity. It has made him into a leader at VA, and one who is proud of the work he has done for Veterans and employees alike.
Serving the LGBTQ+ community
One of Akins’ many hats is serving as VA’s Departmental LGBTQ+ Special Emphasis Program manager and chair of the VA LGBTQ+ Workgroup, a position he’s held since 2013.
“I had just came back from leave to find all these messages about the LGBTQ+ program in my inbox,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on, or who these people reaching out to me were. It turned out I had been given a promotion to that position while I was on leave, and that was how I found out about it.”
Akins was a little apprehensive that he wouldn’t be a good representative for VA’s LGBTQ+ community, but realized that his legal background provided the perfect platform from which to support the program. A graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Akins started his VA career as a legal administration specialist in 2007.
“I knew that the best thing I could do was focus on the law and learn all I could about special emphasis programs, diversity and inclusion, and its purpose here at VA,” he said.
“Since we all have one job — taking care of Veterans — what matters most is that you are qualified to do your specific job. And if you can do your job, you deserve a level playing field, no matter if you’re part of our LGBTQ+ community, the African American community, the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community, or any other community.”
Working with the LGBTQ+ community at VA often provides intersections with those other special emphasis groups, and Akins sees his role as supporting diversity and inclusion across all groups.
“It’s about what we can do to ensure representation at the highest levels here at VA,” he said. “It’s like the legend of Camelot with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Everyone deserves an equal seat at the table, and all walks of life should be represented. We’re a world-class institution, and we should represent the potpourri of people in the world.”
The VA experience
In addition to his work supporting VA’s LGBTQ+ community, Akins currently serves as ORMDI’s External Civil Rights Discrimination Complaints Program manager. He also supports other programs and initiatives in furthering the ORMDI mission, including technical assistance reviews, conflict assessments, investigations and other numerous projects. He also collaborates extensively within VA and also with other federal agencies, serving on various committees and working groups.
“VA is a wonderful place to work,” he shared, explaining that his personal beliefs in servant leadership are on full display when it comes to VA’s mission of care.
“We lead by serving the needs of Veterans, and VA is the most Veteran-centric organization there is. What I do touches every aspect of VA, and it truly is a rewarding place to work.”
Work at VA
Strong, effective leaders are crucial in guaranteeing that we maintain our mission of outstanding health care for the millions of Veterans who count on us every day. Consider bringing your leadership talents to our team.