Defense Department Increases Outreach to Veterans Discharged Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

The policy was repealed 12 years ago

U.S. Army uniform
The military is expanding its efforts to correct the records of service members discharged for their sexuality.
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

It’s now been over 12 years since the Obama administration repealed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allowed queer service members to be open about their sexuality without the threat of being discharged. This repeal didn’t only apply to active members of the military, however; the repeal also meant that anyone who had been discharged due to their sexuality could apply to have their discharge status changed — something that could be useful when applying for some of the many benefits offered to veterans.

As per a recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Defense, roughly 80% of the service members who applied to have their records updated or their discharge status changed were able to do so successfully. Still, that means that there are still a large number of eligible veterans whose records still reflect an outdated and harmful policy — and the Department of Defense is now stepping up its efforts to correct that.

Those efforts include the creation of a web portal with a number of resources available to affected veterans. As Jeff Schogol reports at Task & Purpose, a panel is also set to review the records of service members with non-honorable discharges for reasons of sexual orientation during the period that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in effect.

A Department of Defense official told Task & Purpose that the panel is not reviewing records from before the policy went into effect, and that changing records en masse is not an option.

At the time that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, some service members were able to be reinstated shortly after the policy changed. The repeal had a wide-ranging effect — but the fact that, even now, the damage “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” did to the lives of many veterans has not yet been fully healed speaks volumes about how much more work needs to be done.

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