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Sen. Schatz Reintroduces Restore Honor To Service Members Act

September 20, 2021, 12:04 PM HST
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US Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced the Restore Honor to Service Members Act. Photo Credit: Wendy Osher

Today, on the 10-year anniversary of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy repeal, US Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced the Restore Honor to Service Members Act.

The bipartisan legislation corrects the military records of service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned, building on Sen. Schatz’s 2020 National Defense Authorization Act amendment that turned the Department of Defense’s temporary process for service members to correct their records into permanent law.

Since World War II, more than 100,000 Americans are estimated to have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Those forced out of the military may have left with discharge statuses of “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable,” depending on the circumstances, and as a consequence may be disqualified from accessing benefits they are entitled to. A negative discharge may also prevent veterans from voting or make it more difficult for them to acquire civilian employment.

“As we mark 10 years since the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we must continue working to right the wrongs caused by past discriminatory policy,” Sen. Schatz said. “Tens of thousands of gay and lesbian veterans were unjustly discharged from the military, then denied the benefits and honorable service records that are rightfully theirs. This bill ensures every veteran receives what they deserve.”

Many veterans affected by discriminatory policies such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are still unaware they can have their records corrected or initiate a review. In an effort to continue Congress’s work to correct this historic wrong, the legislation would:

  • Require the Department of Defense to reach out to veterans who faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation about the process for correcting their records.
  • Authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to use the date of a discharge characterization upgrade as the date by which it can determine a former member’s eligibility for accessing time-limited benefits.
  • Require each military branch to execute a historical review of its discriminatory policies, creating an official record that former members could draw on to seek a change in discharge characterization.
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The Restore Honor to Service Members Act is supported by the Unitarian Universalist Association, VoteVets.org and PFLAG.

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In the US House of Representatives, companion legislation was introduced by US Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and has more than 60 cosponsors.

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