Senate lawmakers have written to the Secretary of Defense to ask that he streamline the process of removing DADT discharges from gay veterans’ records.
The Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Mark Udall (D-CO), sent a letter to Leon Panetta this week asking that he expedite the formal process of having DADT discharges removed from veterans’ papers so that such discharges do not continue to hamper former soldiers’ employment prospects.
The current process is protracted and overly burdensome for veterans who–according to Dr. Stanley’s guidance–should be entitled to have their discharge documents corrected. Our understanding is that many veterans who meet the criteria outlined above must first gather their service-related paperwork, which many veterans do not possess. The veteran must then file an application with the supporting documentation to overcome the presumption of the DRB that the discharge was proper. To accomplish this, the veteran must argue that the discharge should be changed according to the standards of “propriety” or “equity,” per DRB regulations. Only after overcoming this presumption will the DRB change the discharge paperwork.
We understand that changing discharge paperwork is not a small matter and that in most cases, a careful case-by-case evaluation is warranted. But as long as a former service member’s Narrative Reason for a discharge is “Homosexual Conduct,” “Homosexual Act” or “Homosexual Marriage,” that service member is compelled to be “out” to any future civilian employer and anyone else who sees the document. Likewise, the negative reentry code serves as a barrier to employment opportunities.
The letter goes on to stress that while the process of streamlining this procedural matter will be lengthy, it is important so that the military can fully leave behind the DADT rule that banned soldiers from open service.
The letter has been welcomed by LGBT rights groups.
“For many, making changes to discharge paperwork is a matter of dignity and restoring honor to their patriotic service in our armed forces. For others, it’s about qualifying for long overdue veteran’s benefits. But for others, a discharge from the military for sexual orientation can be a barrier to employment and requires veterans to ‘out’ themselves to future employers. It’s time to expedite this process to ensure that this discrimatory law doesn’t do further damage to our veterans and their families.”
A lawsuit is currently underway in which a veteran is challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act for denying her same-sex spouse the benefits an opposite-sex spouse would have received. The President is not defending the law but the Republican House leadership is. You can read more on that here.
Click over to the next page to read the letter in full.
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