LGBTQ veterans discharged from the military under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy have gained new access to full government benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced last week to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the policy being repealed.
“Today, we are also taking steps to clarify VA policy for Veterans who were given other than honorable discharges based on homosexual conduct, gender identity or HIV status,” Kayla Williams, the assistant secretary for public affairs in VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote in the Secretary’s blog.
“Under this newly-issued guidance, VA adjudicators shall find that all discharged service members whose separation was due to sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status are considered ‘Veterans’ who may be eligible for VA benefits, like VR&E, home loan guaranty, compensation & pension, health care, homeless program and/or burial benefits, so long as the record does not implicate a statutory or regulatory bar to benefits.”
According to the post, 14,000 service members were discharged under DADT in the 18 years it was in place. The department will review cases of those members who received an other-than-honorable discharge. Unless there are other extenuating circumstances, the department will restore benefits.
“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied, and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” said President Joe Biden in a statement.
He continued, “The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do.”
DADT was a policy put into place in 1994 under President Bill Clinton that allowed gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women to serve in the military, but not openly. This was considered a compromise compared to the policy previously in place.
The policy was repealed in 2011 under President Barack Obama.