Equal Treatment for LGBT Veterans
As the country celebrates Veterans Day today, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to make some serious changes when it comes to supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans. In a letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki, Army Veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis outlined concerns suggesting that the department may not be prepared for the increasing number of openly LGBT veterans who have served the country and are now seeking assistance in the wake of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“We are concerned that the department has not fully prepared for these new circumstances, and this concern has been heightened by media reports of instances in which gay and lesbian veterans have been mistreated or disrespected by VA personnel,” Sarvis wrote in the letter.
Sarvis outlined the following areas for action:
- Issue a directive to all VA personnel making it clear that all veterans and their families are to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their sexual orientation.
- Include this subject matter in training of all new VA employees and in recurring training of existing employees.
- Ensure that all VA policies and publications are sexual-orientation neutral.
- Determine whether gay and lesbian veterans have needs that are distinct from those of straight veterans.
- Take steps to ensure that partners of gay and lesbian veterans have the same visitation rights as partners of straight veterans, similar to the recent HHS directive to protect hospital patients’ right to choose their own visitors during a hospital stay.
“We are not advocating any special treatment for LGBT veterans or their families,” says Sarvis,”but we want to underscore that all military families should be treated the same when it comes to recognition, benefits and family support.”