Seth Moulton, a congressman from Massachusetts who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has released a plan to restore veterans’ benefits to service members who received less than honorable discharges under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“I was proud to support President Barack Obama when he repealed the discriminatory policy in 2010, allowing gay and lesbian servicemembers to serve openly and honestly in the armed forces of the United States for the first time,” Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, said in a statement posted on his campaign website today. “But the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell did not include retroactive upgrades for the more than 100,000 gay servicemembers who had been less-than-honorably discharged since World War II because of who they are. That’s wrong, and it has real consequences.”
Discharges that are less than honorable, including dishonorable, general, and “other than honorable,” make a veteran ineligible for benefits under the GI Bill, which provides assistance with education, and can negatively affect health benefits and disability claims. They can also make it harder for veterans to find employment and make them more likely to become homeless.
Veterans have the responsibility for applying for upgrades of their discharge status, but Moulton said he would change that as president. “That burden should be on the government. … The military record correction and discharge review boards will examine the discharge status of everyone to determine who was separated for sexual orientation or ‘homosexual activity.’ Unless the military can produce records to justify the discharge on other grounds, each veteran’s status will be automatically upgraded to honorable — restoring the benefits that they earned and so rightly deserve.”
Moulton estimated that 100,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members received less-than-honorable discharges under DADT. “They’re not getting benefits they deserve,” he said today on CNN’s New Day. “They’re not getting access to the GI Bill. Their legacy for the families, for those who passed on, is tarred by this government, by this American mistake.”
“It takes a lot of courage to fight. It takes even more courage to fight while hiding a part of who you are,” he added.