by Jan Mabry

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A bill that has been stalling in Congress could help thousands and thousands of veterans who were cast out of the military for being gay, get honorable discharges.

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act would fast track upgrades to nearly all veterans who have had to live with less-than-honorable discharges since World War II. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced the bill in 2014 along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Reps. Charles Rangel and Mark Pocan. Since then, dozens of Democratic senators have signed on.

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As it stands, gay soldiers who were discharged for being homosexuals are barred from their veterans’ benefits and government jobs. A dishonorable discharge brands them for life.

San Francisco-based non-profit Swords to Plowshares has been helping all kinds of veterans get legal assistance. They said upgrades for gay veterans can take years, especially when they have to track down old records. A delay can be a matter of life or death in some cases.

“If a veteran needs health care from the V.A. and it takes so long to get an upgrade, the veteran can really spiral down,” staff attorney Becca von Behren told the New York Times.

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In addition to simplifying the paperwork to get a review, the bill would remove ‘lack of documentation’ as a basis for denial. “It would remove the onus from the service member and place it on DoD to find and produce relevant documentation.”

The Restore Honor to Service Members Act was assigned to a Congressional Committee last July for consideration before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. Despite mounting support, “backers say it has little chance of moving forward this year.”


CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.

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