On the 10th anniversary of the end of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the VA has confirmed that full benefits are available to veterans who were discharged for being gay.
On a VA blog post by Kayla Williams, the assistant secretary in VA's Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, she writes:
"Today marks the tenth anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a policy put into place on Feb. 28, 1994, to prevent lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) service members from serving in the military openly. Although the policy was considered a “compromise” from the previous Department of Defense policy dating back to World War II that empowered the military to pursue – or “ask” – service members suspected of engaging in homosexual acts, DADT nevertheless led to the discharge of an estimated 14,000 service members during the almost 18 years it was in place. Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs is working to reverse the harm done to all LGBTQ+ Veterans.
Today, we are also taking steps to clarify VA policy for Veterans who were given other than honorable discharges based on homosexual conduct, gender identity or HIV status. Under this newly-issued guidance, VA adjudicators shall find that all discharged service members whose separation was due to sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status are considered “Veterans” who may be eligible for VA benefits, like VR&E, home loan guaranty, compensation & pension, health care, homeless program and/or burial benefits, so long as the record does not implicate a statutory or regulatory bar to benefits.
Given that large numbers of LGBTQ+ Veterans who were affected by previous homophobic and transphobic policies have not applied for a discharge upgrade due to the perception that the process could be onerous, we are hopeful that this policy statement encourages more of them to contact VA to determine their eligibility for care and services."
It's important to note that this announcement does not reflect a change in the law, but many veterans may not know they can upgrade their military discharge status and apply for veterans benefits.