New CA law reinstates benefits of veterans discharged under Don't Ask Don't Tell

A new state law will help those veterans who lost their benefits for violating the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy years ago. The policy was rescinded in 2010 by President Obama, but some veterans say they’ve hit a wall trying to get their benefits back.

Some veterans say it’s already hard enough to cut through the red tape of the VA. Now California Assembly Bill 325 will help those who were thrown out of the military because of their sexual identity.  

Don’t ask Don’t Tell was enacted during the Clinton administration so that gays and lesbians could still serve in the U.S. military but not openly. Prior to 1993, gays and lesbians were banned from serving.

"When President Obama rescinded, formally, "Don't ask, Don't tell", the department of defense created a way for veterans who had been discharged under this policy to have the opportunity to correct the record. And importantly, to re-establish their eligibility for full, veteran’s benefits but many veterans, sadly, don't know or can't even access this important process," Governor Gavin Newsom said.  

Military Times reports that 14,000 service men and women were forced out of the military because they admitted their sexual orientation as gay or lesbian under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  

"It was the thing that almost made me not enlist because I had to make a conscious choice that I was going to go back into the closet. I couldn’t share all of who I am as an individual, as a human," said Nic Herrera, a CA Army National Guard Veteran.        

Nic Herrera served in California’s Army National Guard in the early 2000s and says, although she didn’t disclose her sexuality while serving, she remembers how it felt to be investigated.  

"It made an already, difficulty situation, being deployed to an overseas country, the job that we were working in, the environment that we were working under, and then to have our own unit come after us as well, simply for who we love," Herrera said.   

AB 325 will establish the CA Veterans Discharge Upgrade Grant Program, assisting veterans discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell clear their records and get the benefits they earned.  

Military Times also reports the VA will make its own announcement Monday, saying it’ll reinstate benefits for those dishonorably discharged for being gay. Monday is also the 11th anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.