One of the perks of being in the military, along with the honor of serving your country, is the perks. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) health system serves more than nine million veterans. VA mortgage loans offer great interest rates that only require $ 0 for housing. The GI Act allows veterans to attend school or college at government expense.
But thousands of service members who have been “dishonorably” dismissed for being LGBTQ are not eligible for these benefits. Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA) In 2019, it is estimated that 100,000 employees had received such layoffs since World War II.
Since 2011, the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, which banned LGBTQ members from outing, the military cannot dismiss soldiers simply because of their sexual orientation. However, there was no cure for people fired for the same reason under “Don’t ask, don’t say” or before when non-heterosexuality was banned altogether.
Now Common Defense is advocating federal legislation to correct the injustice that has been done to these service members.
“Congress needs to pass legislation to put in place a proactive program to definitely go back, identify all of these people, and fix their records for them,” said Alex McCoy, political director of Common defense, a grassroots organization of progressive veterans, LGBTQ nation. “The program must make them aware of the benefits for which they are qualifying.”
“Even under normal circumstances, you find the transition from the military to civilian life difficult,” he says. “To be cut off from the support to help you with this difficult challenge can be devastating.”
In addition to these circumstances, for several years veterans have had fewer benefits honoring those who served to protect this land. It’s not just about losing benefits. Employers and service providers can continue the discrimination once they want to see a veteran’s discharge papers.
“It is often said that the reason for being fired is homosexual behavior,” notes McCoy. “We are still in a world without the Equality Act, where employers are legal to hire you [for being gay.]”
There is currently an internal military process for veterans to appeal their release, but it is a tedious process. “It’s tedious,” says McCoy, a former Marine. “It can take years. You may need to hire an attorney and there are no guarantees that it will work. It is not enough to sit back passively and go through a very opaque appeal process. “
Even if a law were to be passed now to change this, the challenges to be faced would be significant. Administrative layoffs can mask the reason for an LGBTQ service member being fired so it is not always clear whether his or her sexual orientation or gender was the reason.
McCoy says the government should play it safe and accept the vet’s story. “If anything is unclear, it should be a guess in favor of the veterinarian,” he says. “It has been so long and there are so many inconsistencies that the best approach is to help the vet if in doubt.”
There is currently no pending law in Congress addressing this issue. Several states, including New York and Rhode Island, have taken steps to give LGBTQ veterans access to state benefits that are much more restricted.
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), the former Congressman who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has proposed a bill that sets up a commission to examine the historical and ongoing effects of discriminatory military policies and practices on LGBTQ members and veterans .
“I have a strong feeling that this is a very compelling idea”, Takano told LGBTQ nation last April.
McCoy says he thinks the commission is a good idea, but it doesn’t go far enough. Restoring the benefits of LGBTQ veterans is a necessary step that would show veterans that their service is valued.
“If you are expelled from the military and told you are worthless, you will not feel welcome to remain part of the veteran community,” he says. “You are cut with a sense of pride.”
Recognizing the pain and harm caused by decades of anti-LGBTQ policies would be an important step in restoring that sense of pride.