LGBTQ Veterans Released Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Have Another Chance to Get Full Benefits: NPR

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Close-up of hands holding a brochure in the Pentagon at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month event. DOD photo by US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley. 2015.

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Close-up of hands holding a brochure in the Pentagon at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month event. DOD photo by US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley. 2015.

Smith / Gado / Getty Images Collection

Thousands of LGBTQ veterans who were released from the military under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy have been granted new access to full government benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The announcement, released Monday to mark the 10th anniversary of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, will apply to veterans who have been forced out of service under the policy and who have received “other than honorable dismissals” because of their sexual orientation. , gender identity or HIV status.

The advice was detailed in a blog post on the VA’s website by Kayla Williams, assistant secretary for public affairs in the department’s office of public and intergovernmental affairs. It offers LGBTQ veterans the opportunity to receive assistance ranging from mental health care and disability benefits to college money and home loans.

The announcement clarifies the existing rules in place, but does not represent a specific legal change, officials said.

“At VA, we are continuously working not only to meet the needs of LGBTQ + veterans, but also to address the issues that LGBTQ + veterans face as a result of the military’s official policy on homophobia and transphobia for decades. decades, “Williams wrote.

The VA will begin reviewing records and reinstating benefits for eligible people, unless there are issues such as a criminal record, Williams said.

The story behind ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Say,” which was put in place by former President Bill Clinton on February 28, 1994, has barred openly lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemen from serving in the military. In 2010, former President Barack Obama signed the repeal of the policy, which took effect on September 20, 2011.

Dozens of people are celebrating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal at the war memorials and veterans in San Francisco, California. on Tuesday, September 20, 2011.

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Dozens of people are celebrating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal at the war memorials and veterans in San Francisco, California. on Tuesday, September 20, 2011.

Chronicle of San Francisco via Getty Images

Prior to the repeal, openly gay servicemen who had obtained “non-honorable” release from the military were effectively blocked from the many services and benefits provided to veterans in the United States, including access to medical care, financial compensation, pensions or debt. -free college education.

In addition, the demobilized people were not allowed to re-enlist in the army.

Williams, who is blatantly bisexual, said she chose to “pose as straight” during the push to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell.

“It made sense at the time that there was a more pressing need for me, as a woman married to a man, to say, ‘No one in my unit cared if someone was gay while we were were in Iraq, ”she said.

Williams said it took her many years to let go of the “toxic legacy” of serving in politics to “come out of the closet.”

With new changes in effect brings new opportunities

Over the past 70 years, approximately 100,000 military veterans have left or have been expelled from service for their sexual orientation, and under don’t ask, don’t say, many have ultimately lost the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of l ‘AV.

Lindsay Church, a Navy veteran who co-founded Minority Veterans of America, a nonprofit designed to focus on the membership and fairness of under-represented veterans, was involved when he is to pressure so that the military demobilized because of their sexuality receive benefits of VA.

“Even reversing the policy was not enough to right the harm and damage that has been done,” Church said in an interview on NPR. All things Considered. “And so this moment changes the lives of so many people. “

Williams says that while the trauma caused by the military’s policy of discriminating against the LGBTQ + community cannot be erased, elected officials are taking the appropriate steps to begin “tackling the pain” of the policies being constructed. .

“LGBTQ + veterans are no less worthy of the care and services that all veterans gain through their service, and VA is committed to ensuring that they have equal access to these services,” she said. declared.


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