Sens. Gillibrand, Lieberman To Dept. Of Defense: Restore Honor To DADT-Discharged Veterans

Three influential U.S. Senators—Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Mark Udall (D-CO)—are pushing the Department of Defense (DOD) to act quicker in restoring honor to veterans who were discharged during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era In their letter to DOD head Leon Panetta, the Senators asked for the creation of a process that would speed up the removal of the word “homosexual” from dishonorably discharged veterans’ paperwork, so that finding new work would be easier for them. Here’s press-release sound bites from all three of the Senators. Gillibrand:
“We need to right wrongful discharges for our veterans immediately. Last fall, we ended the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Now it’s time to create an efficient way for veterans, who were discharged because of who they love, to receive clean, honorable discharge paperwork. Veterans that were discharged under DADT served our country courageously and with dignity and we need to give them the appropriate recognition immediately.”
“Although this harmful and wrongheaded policy has been repealed, it left behind a legacy of injustice that continues to discriminate against the gay and lesbian service members whom were discharged under it. By streamlining the process to correct these service members’ discharge documents, the Department of Defense can ensure that these courageous Americans move forward with dignity in their careers and private lives.”
“Even though we ended DADT last year, more than 14,000 veterans who were forced to leave the military because of their sexual orientation still have an unfair stigma hanging over them. Many of those veterans are now beginning the long process of correcting their discharge paperwork to ensure that their records reflect the quality of their service – not the discriminatory legacy that forced them from the military, weakening our national security in the process.  Especially at a time of such high unemployment for our veterans, we should make it as easy as possible for them to maintain their personal privacy by making such corrections.”
Isn’t it nice to see your legislators actually doing something for once? Let’s hope Republicans don’t put up any unnecessary partisan bickering over this, because restoring honor to veterans is something I think all Americans can agree upon. Click through to read the full letter sent by our fierce political allies in the Senate.

The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
United States Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretary Panetta, 

When the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) took effect on September 20, 2011, then-Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Dr. Clifford Stanley issued a memorandum providing guidance to the military services regarding applications from veterans separated on the basis of their sexual orientation seeking changes to their discharge paperwork. The memorandum made clear that Discharge Review Boards (DRBs) “should normally grant requests to change the narrative reason for a discharge…[and that] requests to re-characterize the discharge to honorable and/or requests to change reentry codes to an immediately-eligible-to-reenter category” should be granted when the original discharge was based solely on DADT and there “were no aggravating factors in the record, such as misconduct.” The guidance goes on to say that while “each request must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” having “an honorable or general discharge should normally…indicate the absence of aggravating factors.”

While this guidance was an important step in the right direction, it is insufficient for the vast majority of veterans discharged under DADT. 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.

Therefore, the process should be streamlined for those veterans discharged under DADT who have honorable or general discharges and only seek changes to their narrative reason for discharge and their reentry code. We thus respectfully request that the Department clarify that DRBs shall correct discharge paperwork upon receipt of a basic DD Form 293 application, provided that the DRB can then obtain the veteran’s DD Form 214 and service record. The Department should further clarify that, where there are no aggravating factors in the service member’s record, the presumption should be in favor of correction.

Veterans who were discharged under DADT should not be compelled to carry with them a narrative reason for separation that indicates their sexual orientation to anyone who sees their discharge document. In order to begin to put the regrettable policy of DADT fully behind us, the process of getting these documents corrected needs to be accessible and achievable for all. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


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  • Dave

    I agree that they should do this. BTW queerty it’s not just “gay” or “lesbian” soldiers who were discharged from the military bisexual men and women have been kicked out too because of DADT.

  • Steve

    At least now Dan Choi can stop being a professional media whore and will hopefully reinlist like he said he was going to do but hasn’t.

    I agree with Dave, also Trans people still can’t serve openly in the military.

  • Alexi3

    An actual, honest to God issue for people to get behind and there are two comments. Maybe if there had been a photo of Jake Gylannhaal with the attendant is he gay queary someone would have something to say?

  • Nick

    The fact that Dave specifically failed to mention trans people was likely intentional.

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  • DrewSF

    @4Nick you mean unintentional. It’s not like there have ever been any Trans people who have said how they were kicked out of the military because they were Trans and they don’t do things like go to the media or try to meet with politicians. Meanwhile bisexuals, gays, and lesbians have been talking about being discharged under DADT for decades and we’ve been out and visibly active in getting DADT abolished so we can serve openly in the military.

  • Clockwork

    That photo kicks ass!!

    What a beautiful mix of the freedom of sexual expression, a stable democracy, and the right to bear arms.

    Israel is a cool country, (not that I want armed soldiers walking around our cities).

  • Nick

    DrewSF: No, I really did mean unintentional. What I am saying is that I don’t think he cares about people who are trans.

Comments are closed.