Scroll To Top

Pentagon Says It'll Review Cases of LGBTQ+ Vets Who Were Denied Honorable Discharges: Report

Pentagon Says It'll Review Cases of LGBTQ+ Vets Who Were Denied Honorable Discharges: Report

LGBTQ military at Pride parade

The news marks a notable shift by the Department of Defense that has been a focus of some veterans’ advocacy efforts for decades.

A number of LGBTQ+ veterans who were discharged without honor from the military over their sexuality may have their honor returned under a program announced Wednesday by the Defense Department on the 12th anniversary of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Doing so would allow these veterans to access a host of services they are currently not able to receive such as health care and tuition assistance for college.

The military policy known as "don't ask, don't tell" allowed queer service members to serve in the military if they were closeted. However, they were kicked out if their sexual orientation was found out by military officials and were categorized as having been discharged "under other than honorable conditions."

In a nine-month investigation by CBS, the outlet found that many LGBTQ+ service members found that due to being discharged under the policy they were not able to access a variety of benefits offered to veterans. That included loans, tuition assistance, health care, and even employment. It's led to a class-action lawsuit against the Pentagon, arguing that they should systematically be upgraded to honorable discharged.

Between 1980 and 2011 over 35,000 service members "received a discharge or separation because of real or perceived homosexuality, homosexual conduct, sexual perversion, or any other related reason," CBS reports. Less than 1,500 have had their discharge classification updated.

Now, under a new review, the Department of Defense will reexamine the records of the veterans who served under "don't ask, don't tell." This would eliminate the need for the veterans themselves to apply for the record change.

"For decades, our LGBTQ+ Service members were forced to hide or were prevented from serving altogether. Even still, they selflessly put themselves in harm’s way for the good of our country and the American people. Unfortunately, too many of them were discharged from the military based on their sexual orientation – and for many this left them without access to the benefits and services they earned," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Wednesday. "Over the past decade, we’ve tried to make it easier for Service members discharged based on their sexual orientation to obtain corrective relief. While this process can be difficult to navigate, we are working to make it more accessible and efficient. In the coming weeks, we will be initiating new outreach campaigns to encourage all Service members and Veterans who believe they have suffered an error or injustice to seek correction to their military records."

He added, "The Department values the contributions LGBTQ+ Service members, veterans, and their families have made. I continue to encourage service members who were discharged when this policy was in effect to apply for a record correction through the Military Departments’ Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military/Naval Records."

Journalist Jim Axelrod led the CBS investigation. “This morning, tens of thousands of veterans will wake up who have suffered at the injustice and feel like the past is finally being addressed. That kind of acknowledgment – being seen, being heard – is profoundly powerful…This is all about people who have suffered, we’re [CBS News] happy to be able to put a light on it,” he said in a release.

Previously, The Advocate spoke to Axelrod aboutwhy the Defense Department couldn’t go back and make amends for everything that happened during the time of DADT.

“The short answer to that is there needs to be the will to do that. And the Department of Defense has indicated there is very little will, in terms of addressing this because we're talking about people that are paying the price years, decades after,” he said at the time.

On the 10th anniversary of the repeal of DADT, The Advocate also spoke with Leon Panetta, former congressman, President Bill Clinton's White House Chief of Staff, CIA Chief under President Barack Obama, and later, Obama's Defense Secretary who oversaw the repeal.

“I really do believe that everyone ought to have the chance to serve their country in some capacity. Our ability to get rid of 'don't ask, don't tell' opened more opportunities for women and trans individuals to serve. It just validates the point that our country is best served by giving everyone who wants to serve the chance to serve. That's what makes our democracy what it is," Panetta said.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story identified Jim Axelrod as being out, but, in fact, he is straight.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreAdvocate Magazine - Gio Benitez

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

John Casey

Alex Cooper