Senate Bill Seeks Honorable Discharges for Gay Veterans

Senate bill seeks honorable discharges for gay veterans

S. 1956 Restore Honor to Service Members Act
The Essentials
1. Since World War II, more than 100,000 gay members of the U.S. military were expelled with dishonorable or other less-than-honorable discharges, says Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. That made it hard for some to get tuition under the GI bill, claim full veteran benefits, and find jobs. Even under the 1993 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, some gay service members who received honorable discharges were marked ineligible to reenlist—a red flag to employers.

2. Now that the military is officially “sexual-orientation neutral,” the bill’s authors want to make it easy for members who were kicked out solely for being gay to apply to have their status changed to honorably discharged with no caveats. The military already has an appeals process, but it’s long and cumbersome. The bill calls on the U.S. Department of Defense to come up with a transparent set of steps that veterans can follow and requires the military to review the records of service members who ask.

3. If a military discharge board finds that a veteran had no other misconduct on his record and was given a less-than-honorable discharge only for being gay, the bill requires the Defense Department to change his status and restore all rights and benefits that he would have received with an honorable discharge. The bill also calls on historians of each branch of the military to seek out the “testimony” of service members who were expelled for their sexual orientation.

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