WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon launched a new initiative Wednesday to contact former service members who may have been forced out of the military and denied years of benefits because of policies targeting their sexual orientation, starting with those who served under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regime.
Under DADT, signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton and in effect until 2011, service members with an orientation other than heterosexual could serve — as long as they remained silent. This led to years of discrimination, undue pressure, layoffs and loss of benefits.
Under DADT and previous military policies barring gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer personnel from serving, at least 32,837 service members since 1980 have been forced out of the military because of their sexual orientation, data shows of the Ministry of Defense.
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More than 2,000 of these service members received general qualifications, other than honorable or unknown, “which may have denied them access to veterans’ benefits, such as home loans, health care, GI Bill tuition and even some government jobs,” the deputy defense secretary said. Kathleen Hicks said.
“We know that correcting these records cannot fully restore the dignity taken from LGBTQ+ service members when they were kicked out of the military,” Hicks said. “It does not completely heal the invisible wounds that remain, it does not restore people to health, even for those who received honorable discharges. But this is a new step we are taking to ensure we are doing what is right by those who have served honorably. »
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