By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com April 25 2012 2:45 PM ET
Three senators are asking the Department of Defense to expedite the process for veterans seeking alterations to their discharge documents, omitting information that they were discharged for being gay.
According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, many veterans discharged under DADT face roadblocks when applying for certain benefits. A discharge from the military for sexual orientation can also be a barrier to employment and requires veterans to 'out' themselves to future employers, says SLDN executive director Aubrey Sarvis.
Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and Mark Udall of Colorado, issued a joint letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asking the department to deliver on a promise made to help discharged veterans in tandem with the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
"Veterans that were discharged under DADT served our country courageously and with dignity and we need to give them the appropriate recognition immediately," Gillibrand said in a statement Wednesday.
Udall added, "Even though we ended DADT last year, more than 14,000 veterans who were forced to leave the military because of their sexual orientation still have an unfair stigma hanging over them. Many of those veterans are now beginning the long process of correcting their discharge paperwork to ensure that their records reflect the quality of their service -- not the discriminatory legacy that forced them from the military, weakening our national security in the process."
Upon the official repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in September, then-under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness Dr. Clifford Stanley issued a memo outlining how the military should handle veterans' requests to change discharge paperwork. According to the letter, the process has become burdensome for veterans, even individuals meet the criteria. He or she must gather service-related paperwork, which many of them do not possess. They then must submit the documentation to prove that the discharge was not proper. Then, he or she must argue that the discharge should be changed according to the standards of “propriety” or “equity.”
SLDN released a toolkit in January to guide veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation and wish to make changes or upgrades to their discharge paperwork.