Congressional Democrats have filed a bill to recover benefits for LGBT veterans who were discharged from the Armed Forces simply due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
H.R. 5170, also known as the Serve (Securing the Rights our Veterans Earned) Act, was reintroduced to Congress on Sept. 3. Sponsored by Congressman Chris Pappas of New Hampshire and 45 other Democrats, the bill seeks to restore benefits such as access to health care, education, funeral services and home loans to LGBT veterans.
“Veterans and their families deserve our thanks and gratitude for their service and sacrifice. However, a double standard continues to persist for LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who suffered from government-sponsored discriminatory policies simply because of who they are,” said Pappas, in a press release. “As we near the tenth anniversary of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ it’s long past time that these veterans are afforded the benefits they’ve rightfully earned defending our country. This disparity threatens the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ veterans who are unable to access VA benefits, and it dishonors their service to our country. This legislation will help correct this injustice by guaranteeing VA benefits for LGBTQ+ veterans and ensuring they’re able to receive the care they need.”
Veterans discharged for their sexual orientation or gender identity received OTH or ELS discharges preventing them from accessing services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Serve Act would fix this, sponsors and supporters claim, opening doors for veterans who received blue discharges during World War II, were discharged for personality disorders under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) or prohibited from serving during the Trump administration’s ban on transgender servicemembers.
“Veterans and active-duty service members alike are promised certain recognition and benefits in exchange for their service,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality/NCTE Action Fund, in a press release. “The continued denial of these benefits for some veterans based solely on their gender identity breaks the promises the United States made to its service members — that they will be cared for both during and after their service obligation. The SERVE Act is one step toward equality and fair treatment for all who serve."
On September 20, 2011, DADT, a Clinton administration policy prohibiting gays, lesbians and bisexuals from disclosing their sexual orientation, officially came to an end after 17 years on the books.