Pentagon to review cases of troops kicked out of the military due to sexual orientation

The Pentagon estimates that while the ban was in effect from 1994 to 2011, roughly 2,000 troops were separated from the military and denied honorable discharges due to their sexual orientation. Without honorable discharges, many were denied access to veteran benefits, including home loans, health care, some government jobs and college tuition assistance.

Since the ban was lifted in 2011, DOD has allowed these veterans to apply for an honorable discharge, but the process is complex and many have not taken the opportunity to try to correct their records.

Under the Pentagon’s new initiative, DOD will proactively review the cases of veterans who were separated and may be eligible for discharge upgrades but have not yet applied, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters Wednesday.

For older cases, DOD will seek to collaborate with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Archives, which may have digitized records that can help expedite the review, Hicks said.

The initiative is part of a new outreach campaign to LGBTQ+ veterans discharged under the ban, which will be conducted “online, by mail, through nonprofits and veterans service organizations, and more,” Hicks said.

“We know correcting these records cannot fully restore the dignity taken from LGBTQ+ service members when they were expelled from the military. It doesn’t completely heal the unseen wounds that were left, it doesn’t make people whole again,” Hicks said. “But this is yet another step we’re taking to make sure we do right by those who served honorably.”

Advocates say the number of service members discharged for their sexual orientation even before “don’t ask, don’t tell” is much higher. A CBS News investigation this year revealed that from 1980 to 2011, more than 29,000 troops were separated from the military and denied honorable discharges on the basis of their sexuality.

However, a DOD official, granted anonymity to speak ahead of the announcement, said leadership is still considering whether to include the cases of those discharged before 1994 as part of the review.

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