Information for LGBTQ Veterans and Servicemembers

Lynn Girton, Veterans Legal Services

Many LGBTQ individuals have served in the military and have encountered discrimination based on their LGBTQ status. Indeed, in the period between the end of WWII and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), approximately 114,000 servicemembers were involuntarily discharged based on their sexual orientation. Even after DADT’s repeal, LGBTQ servicemembers have continued to face discrimination, with transgender servicemembers being discriminated against outright.

For many LGBTQ veterans and servicemembers, this discrimination resulted or results in a separation from the military that is characterized as not fully “honorable.” Such a discharge can negatively impact veterans. In some circumstances, it can mean they are denied access to health care through the VA system or denied disability benefits. These veterans are also frequently unable to use education benefits such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and military discharge status can adversley affect future employment and housing opportunities.

LGBTQ veterans may also be stigmatized because their LGBTQ status is listed as the reason for their discharge on their military documents, even when receiving a fully honorable discharge. LGBTQ veterans are often entitled to have their discharge reviewed, or to receive access to health care or other benefits, but are reluctant to come forward due to the discriminatory history and misinformation about their rights.

Any LGBTQ veterans who were separated from the military and received discharge documents (e.g., DD Form 214s) that they would like to change can seek legal assistance with that process. There are two legal programs in Massachusetts serving veterans that can provide legal assistance in these case types. If you would like to get more information about this topic, please contact either Veterans Legal Services at 857-317-4474 or the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School at 617-522-3003. If you know someone who has experienced this treatment, please share this information.