Tens of thousands of LGBT veterans forced from the military for their sexual orientation and given other-than-honorable discharges will be able to receive full Veterans Affairs benefits despite their dismissal status under a new move set to be announced Monday.
The change comes as the country approaches the 10th anniversary of repeal of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” law which forced nearly 14,000 service members out of the ranks for admitting their sexual orientation.
VA officials plan a series of reviews of those veterans’ cases, with a presumption in favor of granting them benefits unless records give a clear reason to oppose that. Individuals with dishonorable discharges or clear criminal history documented in their service records will still not be granted benefits under the new plan.
The new move will extend VA medical care, disability payouts, employment assistance and other benefits individuals previously blocked because of other-than-honorable discharges. Veterans with other than honorable discharges can apply to have their status upgraded, but that process often takes years and has been criticized by outside groups for being overly cumbersome. The new move by VA effectively goes around that process, awarding benefits to individuals quickly even if their review process remains unresolved.