Garcia presses Pentagon for action on veterans discharged under 'Don't ask, Don't tell'

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Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) pressed the Pentagon for action on veterans discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a letter earlier this week.

“Our service members made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a policy that should have never existed in the first place, but we’re unfortunately still feeling the repercussions of it to this day,” Garcia said in a press release on the letter. 

“Now, the Department of Defense has the responsibility to uplift LGBTQ+ veterans who were previously degraded because of their sexuality,” Garcia continued.

Garcia was joined in the letter by fellow Congressional Equality Caucus members Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.). In the letter addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the lawmakers note that a significant amount of veterans separated under the “Homosexual Conduct” policy from 1980 to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) over 10 years ago did not receive honorable discharges.

“Advocates and historians have estimated that since World War II until repeal, some 114,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines were discharged because of who they loved – many with less than honorable discharges that endangered future job prospects, home ownership loans, educational opportunities, and health and disability veterans’ benefits,” the letter reads. 

The lawmakers also requested information including “any statutory limitations that affect the ability of the Department to complete the proactive review of records, or the ability to upgrade discharges to honorable status” and figures for “total applications received to correct the records of individuals charged under DADT or a similar previous policy” in the letter.

“However, since DADT repeal, many veterans who sought to upgrade their less than honorable discharges reported a prolonged and burdensome process, often requiring the use of a lawyer, to seek the respect and benefits they rightfully earned,” the letter reads. “And far too many veterans discharged under DADT had no idea they could seek an upgrade or where to start the process.”

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