LGBTQ veterans in New York previously denied benefits are now eligible

Elizabeth Howe
December 16, 2019 - 1:05 pm
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Hundreds of thousands of veterans denied honorable discharges because of sexual orientation or gender identity do not receive veterans' benefits — the Restoration of Honor Act changed this for those who call New York home. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in November to provide LGBTQ veterans the opportunity to apply for the 50 New York State benefits they were denied due to a less than honorable discharge. 

"Countless service members were discharged from the military simply because of who they are. Adding insult to injury, they were then denied the services and benefits they earned as members of our armed forces who fought to protect our country and defend our ideals," Cuomo said. "With this measure we are righting that wrong and sending a message to LGBTQ veterans that we have their backs, just as they had ours."

In addition to these veterans, the bill restored benefit eligibility to veterans who received less than honorable discharges as a result of military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

New York is the first state to restore benefit eligibility to veterans in these demographics. 

"According to a study my office conducted in 2015, there are more than 50 New York State benefits denied to LGBTQ veterans who were less than honorably discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression," said legislation sponsor Sen.Brad Hoylman, R-N.Y. "Even as gay and lesbian Americans have been able to openly serve in the military for nearly a decade, generations of LGBTQ Americans are still unable to access many veterans' benefits due to the status of their military discharge." 

This is not the first legislation Cuomo has signed in support of New York's LGBTQ community. New York is the first state in the country to require all veterans' services staff to be certified in LGBTQ and HIV+ competency training. 

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