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SLDN Helping Gay Vets Change DADT Discharge Records

By Karen Ocamb
News Editor

  There are still many issues not cleared up with the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"—including how the reasons for leaving military service were characterized in discharge papers. On Thursday, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) launched a new free online toolkit to assist veterans discharged under DADT or the previous ban on open service in changing their paperwork. The toolkit also helps them locate that paperwork through the National Archives Veterans Records Office. SLDN is using guidance from the Department of Defense released last September as the basis for making the changes. SLDN estimates that roughly 100,000 veterans may qualify for the upgrade and has already had success helping Melvin Dwork, a World War II veteran who served in the Navy and was discharged in 1944 for being gay.

Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said:

Cleaning up these records is an important piece of restoring dignity and honor to these American patriots and closing the books on this shameful piece of our history. SLDN stands ready to assist all those who seek our help.

We already have heard from more than 100 gay and lesbian veterans who were discharged under the discriminatory law and now want their discharge paperwork changed or upgraded. Sometimes it’s for reasons of personal pride and setting the record straight about honorable service to our country. But often, there’s also a very practical reason, like urgently needed VA medical benefits or issues of employment. Employers routinely request discharge paperwork when reviewing job applicants who have prior military service. A narrative reason for separation of ‘homosexuality’ or a negative reentry code can mean forcing veterans to out themselves to future employers or being denied employment altogether.

The new online toolkit is available here.   

SLDN also has a free hotline for LGBT servicemembers who need to speak with a staff attorney: Call (800) 538-7418 or (202)328-3244 x100. SLDN’s Freedom to Serve: The Definitive Guide to LGBT Military Service, may be found here.

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