Democrats file bill to make VA policies more inclusive for LGBT veterans

Abbie Bennett
June 27, 2019 - 3:50 pm

Photo by Halle Thornton

Two Congressional Democrats on Thursday introduced a bill intended to make the Department of Veterans Affairs more inclusive for LGBT veterans. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Army veteran, and Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., introduced the LGBT VA Advocacy Inclusion Act that would explicitly include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans in the VA's definition of "minority group member" and would allow the VA's Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) to serve those veterans. 

CMV was established in 1994 with limited authority to serve only ethnic and racial minority veterans. The new legislation would allow the CMV to create programs specifically for LGBT veterans, helping them understand the benefits they are entitled to, provide specific outreach to that community and evaluate complaints from LGBT veterans. 

“We owe all veterans who have defended our nation access to the healthcare and benefits we promised, and they have rightfully earned – regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation," Duckworth said. "LGBT veterans face unique challenges and barriers to accessing the care and benefits we promised them, and because of this they are experiencing unacceptable health disparities such as increased mental illness, depression, suicidal ideation, certain cancers and intimate partner violence at far higher rates than other veterans."

“Although it’s been eight years since the repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' LGBTQ veterans continue to face unique barriers to accessing the care and benefits they earned through their service,” said Pappas, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “All of our nation’s heroes, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, deserve our unwavering support."

As of Thursday at 4 p.m., the full text of the proposed legislation was not yet available online. 

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