DelBene to Introduce Bipartisan Bill Adding LGBT Representation to Minority Veterans Advisory Committee
The legislation would help ensure VA programs, benefits and services meet the needs of LGBT veterans.
SEATTLE – Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today heard from local LGBT veterans about their experiences accessing healthcare and benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). When Congress returns this week, DelBene will reintroduce her bipartisan bill, the Voices for Veterans Act, to reauthorize and expand the VA’s Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include LGBT veterans in its membership and scope.
“Our nation has a responsibility to ensure all our veterans have equitable access to the care, benefits and services they need, regardless of who they are and who they love,” DelBene said. “With the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and anti-transgender policies in our military, our veteran population is becoming more diverse every day. It is now more important than ever that we give LGBT veterans a voice on the VA’s Advisory Committee — a critical next step to serving and supporting all our veterans as well as they bravely served us.”
The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans, established by Congress in 1994, advises the VA Secretary on the needs of minority veterans with respect to compensation, healthcare, rehabilitation, outreach and other VA benefits and services. The Committee assesses the needs of the nation’s 4.7 million minority veterans and recommends program improvements to meet their specific needs.
Unfortunately, under current law, LGBT veterans are not included in the Committee’s membership or scope. The Voices for Veterans Act would extend its composition and reach to include LGBT veterans, ensuring the Committee’s assessments and recommendations reflect the needs of this growing population. It also extends the Committee’s authorization for two years.
“It is not enough for our allies to represent us on the committee, we have to be seen to represent ourselves,” said veteran Anthony Gipe. “Without self-representation it is at best ignoring us, and at worst erasing us.”
More than a million LGBT veterans have already served our nation. The number will only grow after the 2010 repeal of the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law and a new policy announced in 2016 that expressly permits open transgender military service.
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