Implementing the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is not going to be an overnight process, and some expect the process to last up to a year, according to a recent Department of Defense (DoD) report. During this time, Congresswoman Gwen Moore is fighting for the benefits of discharged gay soldiers and making sure they are not denied benefits accorded non-gay veterans. Moore sent letters to both Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Sec. Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed by 4 openly gay Congress members as well as 28 other House Democrats.
The letters speak of the soldiers who were discharged under the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law and how many of them were not granted honorable discharges, which would entitle them to collecting full benefits. Those veterans saddled with an “other than honorable” discharge are not only limited in the benefits they can use, if they were to apply to the VA for health benefits, the VA can limit or even deny treatments for service-related injuries. Further, an “other than honorable” discharge bars them from being able to use the GI fund for college.
Some gay veterans were given “other than honorable” discharges depending on how their commander interpreted the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law, making the discharges more subjective than they should have been. Moore’s letter requests the DoD and VA “fast-track” the cases of those discharged, gay veterans who apply for a change in their discharge status so they don’t have to deal with the , time-consuming process of working their way through the standard boards.
There have been approximately 14,000 veterans discharged under the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law since it took effect. Approximately $193 million has been spent replacing those soldiers discharged under the law. The new law treats every soldier as equal, and their benefits should be no different.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.