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VA to make benefits available to more than 14,000 who were discharged under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

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Military veterans fired under the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy can now qualify for full benefits — 10 years after the ludicrous plan was rescinded, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs said.

The shift in policy allows veterans to receive other than honorable discharges because of their gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV status benefits, including health care, pensions and job placement, VA assistant secretary in the Office of Public Affairs Kayla Williams said Monday.

In the 17 years that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was in effect, an estimated 14,000 LGBTQ+ members were fired. The rule openly banned gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals from serving in the armed forces.

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, introduced in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, openly banned gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals from serving in the armed forces — 14,000 LGBTQ+ military personnel were fired in the 17 years that it was in effect, the VA reports. Pictured are local leaders and former military personnel holding banners to celebrate the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on September 20, 2011.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough (pictured) has issued guidelines to veterans' benefit administrators that members of the military who have been

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough (pictured) has issued guidelines to veterans’ benefit administrators that members of the military who have been “discharged other than honorable only because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status” should be considered veterans who may be qualify for VA benefits’ .’

Williams said Denis McDonough, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, had issued guidelines to the arbiters of veterans’ benefits administrators that members of the military who receive “any other than honorable discharge should be considered only because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.” as veterans who may be eligible for VA benefits.”

“I’m confident that as an agency we will continue to find more ways to show through word and deed that VA made everyone who served…”

Among the range of benefits now available to veterans fired under the policy are benefits, home loan guarantees, pensions, health care, homeless programs and funeral benefits, Williams wrote in a blog post detailing the change.

“LGBTQ+ veterans are no less worthy of the care and services all veterans deserve through their service, and VA is committed to ensuring they have equal access to those services.”

Senator Mark Leno (pictured right) embraces retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning as dozens of people celebrate the repeal of

Senator Mark Leno (pictured right) embraces retired Navy Commander Zoe Dunning as dozens of people celebrate the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in front of the War Memorial and Veterans building in San Francisco on Sept. 20, 2011. Gerardo Marin , a gay retired Air Force veteran is pictured on the left

Williams, who identifies as bisexual, married a man in 2005, but said it was difficult to maintain her identity while serving in the military.

“As a bisexual veteran, I chose to present as straight during the push to revoke DADT,” Williams wrote in the post. “It made sense at the time that as a woman married to a man, there was a more pressing need to say, ‘No one in my unit cared if anyone was gay while we were in Iraq.’

‘My own identity seemed irrelevant. It took me many years to shake off the toxic legacy of my service under DADT and come out again; I am proud to recognize this anniversary as my authentic self.”

Williams said any Character of Discharge case initially considered for denial of benefits will be reconsidered. However, she did not clarify whether veterans discharged under the law will receive benefits retroactively.

President Barack Obama greets former U.S. Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins (left), who was fired in August 2010 for

President Barack Obama greets former U.S. Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins (left), who was fired in August 2010 for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” at the Democratic National Committee’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Leadership Gala in New York

President Joe Biden joined Williams and other military officials at the virtual event at the White House.

“More than 100,000 U.S. military personnel have been fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including more than 14,000 under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Biden wrote.

“Many of these veterans received what is known as ‘other than honorable’ discharge, barring them and their families from the all-important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.”

More than 100,000 U.S. military personnel have been fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity — including more than 14,000 under Don't Ask Don't Tell," Biden said in a statement Monday.  Biden also commemorated the tenth anniversary of the withdrawal via Twitter

“More than 100,000 U.S. servicemen have been fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity — including more than 14,000 under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Biden wrote in a statement Monday. Biden also commemorated the tenth anniversary of the withdrawal via Twitter

“On behalf of the entire Department, I thank our LGBTQ+ service members — and your families — for the service you provide every day,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin wrote in a statement.

The change marks another step in the Biden administration’s efforts to improve LGBTQ+ rights in the armed forces. Days after taking office in January, Biden signed an executive order to lift the ban on Trump-era transgender people.

“No veteran should receive a less than honorable discharge based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

“On behalf of the entire department, I would like to thank our LGBTQ+ employees – and your families – for the service you prove every day.”

He urged military personnel who were discharged under the policy and those who felt they had been unfairly discharged to contact their military division’s Military/Navy Records Correction Board or their Discharge Review Board.

Staff Sgt. LeAnne Withrow said the Armed Forces was a “different place” when she served in the National Guard under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – “it wasn’t a super-friendly place to be LGBTQ.”

“As a transgender woman and lesbian, I’m excited,” she said NBC Chicago of the policy change. “I think we have made a lot of progress. I think there is still progress to be made, but today is a really big day.’

Staff Sargeant LeAnne Withrow (pictured) said the Armed Forces was a

Staff Sgt. LeAnne Withrow (pictured) said the Armed Forces was a “different place” when she served with the National Guard under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – “it wasn’t a super-friendly place to be LGBTQ.” “As a transgender woman and lesbian, I’m excited,” she told NBC Chicago on Monday about the policy change. “I think we have made a lot of progress. I think there is still progress to be made, but today is a really big day’

In 2010, after the process to reverse the controversial policy began, former President Clinton defended his administration’s implementation of DADT in an interview with CBS.

“I did not opt ​​for this policy – don’t ask don’t tell was not passed until both houses of Congress voted by a huge veto-proof margin to introduce an absolute ban on gays in the military,” he said. he.

“They had made it clear, both houses and their votes with veto-resistant margins, they would never allow me to order gays by decree to serve in the military.”

Former President Barack Obama repealed the law on September 20, 2011.

“We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot,” Obama said. “We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal … Those are the ideals we uphold today.”

“I did not opt ​​for this policy – don’t ask don’t tell was not passed until both houses of Congress voted by a huge veto-proof margin to introduce an absolute ban on gays in the military,” he said. former President Bill Clinton. In a 2010 CBS interview, Katie Couric tells of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy enacted during his tenure. “They had made it clear, both houses and their votes with veto-resistant margins, they would never allow me to order gays by decree to serve in the military”

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