VA Says LGBTQ + Veterans Now Eligible for Benefits
September 20, 2021 marked the tenth anniversary of the repeal of President Clinton’s disastrous do not ask, do not say policy, which resulted in the expulsion of more than 14,000 military personnel with discharges less than ‘honorable. Less than honorable means you are not counted for VA health care, disability compensation, home loans, or even funeral benefits.
The policy was repealed by the Obama administration on September 20, 2011.
President Biden said: “the policy was a great injustice, which excluded many veterans and their families from their deserved benefits.”
Frankly, it is estimated that the number of veterans expelled from the military is much higher, at over 100,000 veterans.
The overwhelming majority of LGBTQ + veterans involuntarily withdrawn from military service were exceptional patriotic individuals who demonstrated the highest standards of devotion, dedication and determination to the mission of protecting and defending their fellow Americans and their nation.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in his September 20, 2021 statement, said “no veteran should endure less than honorable discharge based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The military adopted the policy of banning service to gays and lesbians in 1982.
I first served in the military in the late 1960s, then returned to the air force in 1977, and the policies of military service were steeped in draconian words.
Homosexual activities were considered incompatible, and the presence of homosexuals in the military was believed to “affect the ability to maintain discipline, good order and morale.” We felt that when it came to fighting, the cohesion of the military mission would be compromised.
I’m a straight veteran female and let me say this attitude is the biggest load of manure that has ever come down from the pike!
I wrote about my late father with whom I shared many thoughts on the military. We were in complete agreement on this area of military service. What matters is when you wear the uniform and the person next to you is wearing theirs, is that you are focused on the job, on the mission, and your privacy is not. nobody’s business. PERIOD.
Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK have all had gay men serving their military for years. It should be noted that many of these countries had personnel serving in combat operations with American personnel, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. The commanders of the military forces of these countries have declared that “the sexual harassment of women by men poses a far greater threat to the performance of the unit than anything related to sexual orientation.”
LGBTQ + veterans know that going through the process to have their leave amended won’t be a snap, and for many who come out openly to step up and file a claim for the benefits they won will be a slow and sometimes painful process.
The VA is now seated with over 600,000 claims of all kinds, and over 200,000 cases are in arrears.
The VA has announced that it is hiring an additional 2,000 social workers, but it will take time to hire and train these staff.
A word to my veteran sister and brothers who are LGBTQ + and are reluctant to stand up and take the necessary steps to get the honorable discharge you deserve and the benefits you are entitled to:
My dad’s favorite answer when I wondered if I was making the right decision about doing or not doing something in life was “you never get to the top if you never make the climb”.
He is a veteran who hopes you will ascend because you have earned the honorable discharge and the benefits you are entitled to.
Remember that with every step you take, the LGBTQ + veterans of the future will follow and they will be grateful for the sacrifices you have made so that they do not suffer the humiliation, grief and feelings of abandonment of your nation that you endured.
– That’s the opinion of Patricia Wilson, a veteran and resident of St. Cloud. His column appears on the fourth Tuesday of the month.