America: Summer 2015

2006-2015  Gay Military Signal

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Discharge Upgrade Update:
Restore Honor To
Service Members Act

To this day, more than 100,000 patriotic American veterans still have no practical way to get their less than honorable discharges due to homosexuality upgraded to 'honorable.'  I'm talking about members of the Greatest Generation who served in World War II and Korea whose last wish is to have their service honored, to be buried in a Veterans Cemetery with a uniformed bugler playing taps and giving the American flag from their coffin to someone they loved.  I'm talking about many thousands of Vietnam Vets, aging now with old war wounds and aching still over the the lifelong insult of having been dishonorably discharged simply because of who they loved, still being denied the benefits they earned serving their nation in war.  And onward through the decades, there are all those patriots who served through Iraq and Afghanistan who were betrayed by bigots and discharged simply because of who they are.  The fact is that the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell did nothing to rectify the wrong done to these American patriots, even now.  American Veterans for Equal Rights and others have campaigned for years for Congress to clean up all the past discrimination done to our vets who served with honor and distinction.

Now, a bipartisan effort in the US Senate and US House of Representatives seeks to at long last enable our forgotten vets to have their honor and benefits restored.  The Restore Honor to Service Member Act was reintroduced in both the Senate and House on July 15th 2015.  It was originally introduced, in the previous session, by the same members of Congress: Senators Gillibrand (NY) and Schatz (HI) and Representatives Pocan (WI) and Rangel (NY).  The bill, simply, would streamline and automate the currently decades-long discharge upgrade process for those less than honorably discharged due to homosexuality.

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DoD Transgender Policy Change

On July 13th, 2015 Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a long awaited policy change that will lead to allowing open Transgender service by early next year.  The full details are explained in the actual DoD press release below.

The short version is that:
1. Known Transgender personnel on active duty can no longer be involuntarily separated except by the Undersecretary of Defense; essentially halting discharges of outed Transgender service members.
2. A Pentagon Working Group is being established that will study how to integrate openly serving Transgender personnel into our armed services.  The study, which presumes that Transgender personnel will be permitted to serve openly, will develop regulatory and policy changes and include training troops in acceptance and non-discrimination, and also deal with pragmatic details such as which toilets may be used, which uniforms may be donned, which units may be assigned, and so on.

Essentially, the same process was implemented to facilitate the transition to open service by Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual armed forces personnel from 2010 to 2011.

While our allied nations included their Transgender citizens from the start when they began lifting their bans on LGBT service in the mid 1990s, it is nonetheless breathtaking that this change is taking place now in the US.  Gay Military Signal attributes this to the leadership of President Obama who has heard the long term ongoing campaigns of LGBT veterans groups such as Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) and American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), along with the urgings of progressive members of Congress including Senators Gillibrand (D NY) and Schatz (D HI) and Representatives Pocan (D WI) and Rangel (D NY).

 

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LGBT Vets Survey

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers are studying how stigma and harassment experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) service members while in the military is associated with current individual and social health-related factors and health outcomes.  The study asks military Veterans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to complete a 15-20 minute anonymous survey about their military experiences and their current personal health and healthcare experiences.  Survey results will be used to better understand how negative experiences in the military may affect future health. Our ultimate goal is to provide clinically appropriate and culturally sensitive health care for LGBT Veterans. The survey is anonymous; no personal identifiers are collected.  Participants do not need to be enrolled in VA care to complete the survey.  Participants do not need to be “out” about their LGBT identity to complete the survey.  The study seeks a broad representation of LGBT military Veterans, especially people living in rural areas.

To take the survey, follow this link: VA Survey of LGBT Military Veterans and Healthcare Experiences

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