A new California law will help military service members who were discharged because of their sexual or gender identity under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy restore their eligibility for Veterans Affairs benefits, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday.
“For decades, our bravest heroes, men and women who wore the uniforms of the armed forces, had to hide who they really were, and many were not honorably discharged when their sexuality was discovered,” Newsom said in a statement after announcing the move signed the bill.
Gays and lesbians were banned in the military until 1993, when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was passed, allowing them to serve only if they didn’t openly disclose their sexual orientation. Instead of helping, proponents say, the policy has created more problems. Throughout its history, the military has fired more than 100,000 service members because of their sexual or gender identity — 14,000 of them during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period.
Approved by Congress and then President Barack Obama in late 2010, the repeal of the law went into effect nine months later, allowing lesbian, gay and bisexual people to serve openly.
The Department of Defense then created a path for veterans discharged under the policy to receive the full range of veteran benefits.
“But unfortunately many veterans don’t know or even have access to this important process,” Newsom said, adding that some veterans who attempted to reclaim benefits had to hire expensive legal counsel and other assistance to navigate the process. “We are taking steps to fix this.”
The law requires the California Department of Veterans Affairs to establish the Veterans Discharge Upgrade Grant Program to provide guidance to LGBTQ veterans who were discharged on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis and to help those who are applying for it qualify to update and correct their records and access veteran benefits.
https://nypost.com/2022/09/18/california-enacts-law-to-help-lgbtq-military-veterans/ California enacts legislation to support LGBTQ military veterans