PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Department of Veterans Affairs is reaching out to LGBTQ service members who received other than honorable discharges due to the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy to let them know they are now eligible for full benefits.
The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was put in place in 1994 by then President Bill Clinton as a compromise. It allowed LGBTQ members to serve in the military, as long as they stayed silent.
In 2011, President Barack Obama repealed the policy and allowed all military members to serve openly, regardless of their sexual identity.
However, according to the Center for American Progress, an estimated 14,000 gay and lesbian service members were discharged from the military while the policy was in place.
“It really makes you be untruthful and then that is something that really confuses you in your mind and in your heart about your integrity,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. General Leah Lauderback. “That is always something that will continuously eat at me, I mean, I’m sure until the day that I die.”
Ten years after the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Department of Veterans Affairs said those members who received other than honorable discharges are now eligible for full benefits, including medical care, compensation, pensions and education.
Oregon Assistant Director of Statewide Veteran Service Joe Glover has a message for veterans who were previously denied benefits.
“Anyone that might have pursued benefits in the past and may have been turned down or denied because of this, we strongly, strongly encourage them to reach back out again under this new understanding,” he said.
Glover said it’s another huge step on the path to full equality.
“It will just continue to improve the longer they can serve openly and truly be themselves,” he said.