Veterans Discharged Under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Eligible for VA Benefits
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) October 25, 2021 – The Department of Veteran’s Affairs released a policy statement alerting veterans discharged under the military’s former “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy that they are eligible for VA benefits they previously may have been denied. The announcement came on the tenth anniversary of the repeal of the controversial policy that kept openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving in the military.
Although those discharged under DADT based solely on gay behavior, sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status have technically been eligible for benefits, they were originally given an other-than-honorable discharge. That status had thus far excluded them from receiving any VA benefits, and few have applied for a discharge status upgrade. This latest VA policy statement reiterates that these veterans are entitled to VA benefits, including veteran readiness and employment benefits, home loan guaranty, compensation and pension benefits, health care, homeless programs, and burial benefits.
“More than 14,000 service members were discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” for simply being who they are,” said James G. Fausone, lead attorney at VA disability law firm Legal Help for Veterans in Northville, Michigan. “It is an unfortunate truth that the military has only recently begun to accept and protect LGBTQ+ servicemembers. The immense harm caused by policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell” cannot be undone, but this move shows that the military is committed to doing better.”
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was first issued in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton. Openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals had been banned from serving in the military since World War II, but DADT codified it into law. It prohibited armed forces members from disclosing that they were gay or bisexual to others and discharged those who did not abide. It was an official policy for 18 years until its repeal in 2011.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough urged anyone given an other-than-honorable discharge status under DADT to apply for a discharge upgrade and determine VA benefits eligibility. It is the latest of several major actions taken by the Biden administration to improve the rights of LGBTQ+ service members and veterans. Since January, when President Biden was inaugurated, they have created a task force to examine how different policies affect LGBTQ+ veterans and service members, worked to overturn the Trump-era ban on transgender persons in the military, and proposed allowing gender-reassignment surgery to be covered by VA healthcare.
Legal Help for Veterans is a veteran-owned law firm that handles veteran disability claims exclusively. To contact attorney James G. Fausone and the rest of the Legal Help for Veterans team, visit https://www.legalhelpforveterans.com/.