Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” 2011 repeal. On the same day, the pentagon announced new initiatives in its efforts to help LGBTQ+ veterans who were discharged from the U.S. military when the policy was active. The efforts include include a proactive review process of the records of dismissed veterans as well as a new website that lists resources for queer people who served in the armed forces.
President Bill Clinton signed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 1993. The policy was created to allow gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to serve in the military as long as they kept their sexuality a secret.
Roughly 13,000 service members were discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” for their sexuality being learned one way or another. Since World War II, historians estimate that at least 100,000 military members have been dismissed because of their sexual orientation. President Obama repealed the policy in 2011.
Prior to yesterday, veterans who were discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” could only update their records by submitting an application and documents relevant to their service in order to receive a discharge upgrade.
“Over the past decade, we’ve tried to make it easier for Service members discharged based on their sexual orientation to obtain corrective relief,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Wednesday. “While this process can be difficult to navigate, we are working to make it more accessible and efficient.”
In order to get the news out, the Pentagon will be “redoubling our outreach to LGBTQ+ veterans discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to encourage anyone who might be eligible to apply for corrections to their military records,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said at a news conference. “This outreach campaign will be online, by email, by mail, through nonprofits and veterans service organizations and more.”