Tens of thousands of LGBT veterans forced out of the military because of their sexual orientation and given unworthy leave will be able to receive full veterans benefits despite their dismissal status under new ruling which will be announced on Monday.
The change comes as the country nears the 10th anniversary of the repeal of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that forced nearly 14,000 servicemen out of the ranks for admitting their sexual orientation.
But the impact of the new VA announcement goes beyond those individuals, to potentially include troops who served before and after the law who may have received poor performance reviews or intimidated into leaving the military because of their service. LGBT status.
Outside advocates estimate that as many as 100,000 over the past 70 years may have been unintentionally separated from the military because of their sexual orientation. Data on the number of non-honorable leaves received is not available.
According to sources familiar with the pending announcement, VA officials are planning a series of reviews of these veterans’ cases, with a presumption in favor of granting them benefits unless the records give a clear reason for s ‘oppose it.
The announcement to be released on Monday – the anniversary of the DADT repeal – includes VA Secretary Denis McDonough, saying department officials have the power to grant these people full VA benefits if their case justifies it, whatever the exit status.
People with dishonorable dismissals or a clear criminal history documented in their service record will still not receive benefits under the new plan.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy was in place from 1993 to 2011. It prohibited members of LGBT services from discussing or publicly acknowledging their sexual orientation, with a penalty of dismissal from the ranks if the truth was discovered. Before that, all LGBT people were completely banned from service.
For years, gay rights advocates have noted that before and during the establishment of the DADT policy, many military commanders with prejudices against LGBT troops often issued dismissals for misconduct to such people – citing issues such as poor fitness reports or poor performance – to cover up fanaticism or frustration related to sexual orientation issues.
This subsequently prompted VA staff to deny these veterans benefits as their documents did not show honorable release status.
The new ruling will extend VA medical care, disability benefits, employment assistance and other benefits to people previously stranded due to non-honorable leave.
Ministry legal officials believe the change will not require any new legislation or policy statements, as the ministry already has broad powers to interpret which veterans are eligible for ministry services.
White House officials are expected to mark the anniversary of the DADT repeal with an event on Monday. The exact timing of VA’s announcement is unclear. VA officials declined to comment on the pending news.
Veterans with non-honorable releases can apply for a status upgrade, but this process often takes years and has been criticized by outside groups for being too cumbersome. VA’s new initiative effectively circumvents this process, quickly granting benefits to individuals, even if their review process is unresolved.
Joe Biden was vice president when President Barack Obama signed the repeal of DADT. As president, Biden is committed to making all government agencies more inclusive for minority and under-represented groups.
When McDonough took office as secretary in February, he pledged to make the department a place that “welcomes all veterans, including women, veterans of color and LGBTQ veterans.” In June, authorities announced their intention to offer transgender surgeries for the first time in departmental hospitals.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on policies relating to military personnel and veterans. His work has earned him numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.