For 17 years, President Clinton’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from serving in the military.  Thousands of veterans were discharged under “other than honorable” conditions as a result of this policy between 1993 and 2011.  These veterans were denied access to a variety of VA benefits, such as healthcare, disability compensation, home loans and burial benefits due to the character of discharge.

Many veterans suffered during the tenure of this program, grappling with the desire to serve their country while hiding their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Often, mental health issues arose but treatment was not available through the VA after being pushed out of the military under DADT.  While some fought to upgrade their discharge in order to have access to VA benefits, many failed to do so because it is a long and arduous process.   Others have worked to overturn the lingering aftermath of DADT, lobbying for legislation to assist not only veterans affected by DADT but those forced out of the military due to sexual orientation or gender identity before the policy was enacted as well as after it was lifted.  Efforts are also underway for a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defense to restore benefits for a wider class of LGBTQ veterans involuntarily separated from service.

The policy announced by VA Secretary Denis McDonough on September 20, 2021, as part of the ten year anniversary of President Obama’s repeal of DADT, is expected to allow troops who served before, during and after DADT to qualify for VA benefits.  The VA plans to start reviewing cases with a presumption in favor of granting eligibility for benefits.  Of course, once deemed eligible to apply for benefits, the veteran will have to provide evidence in support of qualifying for a particular benefit, such as disability compensation.  Keep in mind, however, that a veteran who received a dishonorable discharge or with a record of a clear criminal history documented in his file will not be eligible for benefits under this plan.

If you need assistance with VA disability compensation, please contact Avard Law Offices.