An 82-year-old military veteran, Donald Hallman, is determined to clear his name.
The senior citizen has asked the military to remove his decades-old "undesirable" discharge for being a "Class II homosexual." According to American Veterans for Equal Rights, an estimated 114,000 soldiers were given an "undesirable" discharge and drummed out of the service before gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the military were allowed to serve openly.
The designation has tangible repercussions beyond the psychological pain the discharges caused. Not only does it disqualify veterans from receiving benefits, but it can also make it harder to find a job if the applicant lists their military service.
Gay veterans can apply to change their discharge status, but the requests must be done individually and can take years to fulfill. Many veterans rack up enormous legal bills fighting the designation. And it is the individual's responsibility to prove the discharge was wrongly assigned.
The Department of Veterans Affairs can currently only deny benefits to someone whose discharge was the result of "aggravating circumstances" such as desertion, refusal to follow orders, or any misconduct leading to a court-martial.
Democratic congressmen Mark Pocan and Charlie Rangel introduced legislation in 2013 to streamline veterans appeals for removing the designation, but despite 102 bipartisan cosponsors, the legislation died in a congressional term most noted for its lack of cooperation and achievements. Sen. Brian Schatz introduced similar legislation earlier this year, but it has not moved forward.
"As an American, a congressman, and a Korean War veteran, I was proud to join my colleagues in ending the discriminatory law that previously barred open gay and lesbian soldiers from serving their country," said Rep. Rangel when introducing his 2013 proposal. "Now is the time to finish the job and ensure that all those who served honorably are recognized for their honorable service regardless of their sexual orientation."
Watch below as Hallman makes his case to CNN's Ashleigh Banfield.