Gillibrand revives bill to clear records of discharged LGBTQ military personnel

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has re-introduced a six-year-old bill that would enable veterans who were ousted from the military solely for being gay or lesbian to have any negative discharges they received changed to “honorable” to protect their benefits and employment prospects.

“Veterans who honorably served our nation should not have to fight for their benefits,” Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement on Thursday. “The Restore Honor to Service Members Act would clear discriminatory discharges they received on their records due solely to their sexual orientation. Our veterans deserve the recognition and benefits they earned for the sacrifices they made for our country, and I urge my colleagues to join me and pass this important bill.”

The New York Democrat is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. Brian Schatz, the Hawaii Democrat who first introduced it in 2014 (with Gillibrand as a co-sponsor). Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin had initiated the measure in the House in 2013.

The bill will clear the records of discharged LGBT service members who committed no misconduct but whose dismissals based on sexual orientation were deemed “dishonorable” or some other designation besides “honorable.” Proponents say having a non-honorable discharge can disqualify former service members from claiming benefits and make it harder for them to get jobs.

The legislation requires the Department of Defense to contact veterans discharged because of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and earlier policies on sexual orientation and tell them how to correct their records.

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