Veterans benefits

Massachusetts veterans benefits change would fix discriminatory policy for LGBTQ veterans (editorial)

Doing the right thing doesn’t need to come with a deadline or timestamp.

Nearly 11 years after “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed as official United States Army policy, the Massachusetts Senate has unanimously passed an amendment that would make LGBTQ veterans free under the policy eligible for state veterans benefits.

It was submitted as part of the state budget process. It’s not yet law, but State Sen. John C. Velis, D-Westfield, who filed the amendment, says he can’t imagine anyone objecting to it.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the official United States policy toward non-heterosexual military personnel from 1994 to 2011. Widely seen in the 1990s as an acceptable compromise, this policy is now seen for what was, a form of wallpaper. of discrimination.

His message was both simple and disturbing: the country needs your services and accepts your sacrifice, and it accepts you for who you are – but don’t admit it. The dishonesty inherent in this message had considerable negative effects.

During its 17 years, more than 14,000 servicemen were forced out of the army. Because they did not receive an honorable discharge, they and their families were not eligible for many veterans benefits.

Massachusetts has often been a national leader in protecting civil rights, but in this case the state lags behind. Last fall, the US Department of Veterans Affairs released new guidelines that veterans released under the policy are eligible for federal benefits.

The amendment aligning state benefits was tabled by Velis, chairman of the Veterans Affairs and Federal Affairs Committee. A major in the U.S. Army Reserve, Velis has seen firsthand that duty and bravery to country are shared by those of all sexual orientations.

“If you know a serviceman bleeding in combat while another applied a tourniquet, or shared a foot patrol, or fought back, and that person cared about the other’s sexual orientation, I’d like to meet that person” , said Velis. , sardonic and revealing.

This amendment is better late than never. As Velis said, “The years of trauma, abuse, and harassment caused by ‘don’t ask, don’t say’ can’t be undone,” but the future for LGBTQ veterans may finally be better because it will be fair.