Legislators Fight to Gain Benefits for Gay Veterans

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by Levi Newman on February 7, 2011

Representative Gwen Moore and other U.S. House members are working to make sure military members discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” remain eligible for veterans’ benefits.

Rep. Moore, and 32 additional House members – four of which are openly gay – have sent letters to both the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs asking administration officials to create a way for military members to receive benefits even if their discharge was other than “honorable.”

Rep. Moore and other House members are concerned that veterans who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may be labeled as a “general,” “other than honorable,” or “dishonorable” discharge and become ineligible for veteran benefits.

“We urge you to ensure that there is in place a timely and fair mechanism for providing consistent resolutions to post-repeat claims by those who believe their discharge characterization under DADT and its predecessors were undeserved,” the letter states. “Many may request changes to allow them access to a range of earned benefits or services through the VA or DoD and your Department needs to be thoroughly and appropriately prepared.”

The letter does acknowledge that former service members can request a change in discharge from the Service Boards for the Correction of Military Records or service Discharge Review Boards for Redress, but also that doing so is often time-consuming and doesn’t always lead to preferable outcomes.

“We believe that it is prudent that you begin planning to ensure that this process is made available,” states the letter to Shinseki. “We urge you to put in place mechanisms (including education of VA employees and outreach plans for those who may benefit from such a process) to make full use of this authority to speed relief for those who may qualify once repeal is implemented.”

Benefits which former service members are eligible to receive if separated as “honorable” may include health care, disability compensation, educational assistance, and home financing.

Photo thanks to colindunn under creative common license on Flickr.

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