SLDN launches new online toolkit to assist LGBT veterans
 

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posted Friday, January 13, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 02

SLDN launches new online toolkit to assist LGBT veterans
by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has launched a new online toolkit to assist veterans discharged under DADT or the prior regulations prohibiting Gay and Lesbian service in the military who are seeking changes to their discharge paperwork. These changes include upgrading of discharge characterizations, modifying the narrative reason for discharge, or changing the reentry code. 'Guidance from the Department of Defense,' released in September 2011 as DADT repeal was taking effect, provides the pathway for making changes and upgrades. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 veterans may qualify for such assistance.

'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,' said Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.

'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 V.A. 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,' he said.

Through the online tool, veterans who believe they may qualify are able to connect with the National Archives Veterans Records Office to obtain copies of their discharge paperwork, as well as provide necessary information to SLDN in just a few easy steps to begin processing.

'Since repeal, word has spread rapidly about this opportunity, and our attorneys have experienced a surge in calls from veterans seeking our services. This toolkit will streamline the process for them and help us get results for them more quickly. We urge anyone interested in this assistance to contact our office and let us help,' said SLDN Legal Director David McKean.

Since September, SLDN has served veterans seeking this assistance who were discharged as far back as World War II. An early success was on behalf of Melvin Dwork, a World War II veteran who served in the Navy and was discharged in 1944 for being Gay. Dwork sought SLDN's legal assistance in early 2011 to upgrade his discharge paperwork and it was granted in September. The result was an honorable discharge in place of the previous 'undesirable' characterization, allowing Dwork to qualify for long overdue benefits, and with them, in his words, the satisfaction 'of righting a wrong' that was nearly 70 years old.



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