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DelBene, Pappas Introduce Legislation to Establish LGBTQ+ Veterans Advisory Committee

Today, Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) introduced legislation which would establish an LGBTQ+ Veterans Advisory Committee at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA).

Many LGBTQ+ veterans faced systemic discrimination and were unfairly denied their VA benefits under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” They continue to run into roadblocks when attempting to access benefits or programs afforded to non-LGBTQ+ veterans, including health care, burial and memorial, education, and home loan benefits.

The VA estimates one million LGBTQ+ veterans face unique challenges accessing VA health care and lack full awareness of services and benefits available to them. The historic lack of targeted outreach or consideration of their needs has contributed to lower rates of health care utilization and a range of disparities, including data showing LGBTQ+ veterans experience depression and suicidal ideation at twice the rate of other veterans.

The bill would provide LGBTQ+ veterans a direct line to the VA Secretary by establishing an LGBTQ+ Veterans Advisory Committee at the VA. The Committee’s membership would include professionals in fields related to health care and other needs unique to LGBTQ+ veterans, at least one lesbian, gay, or bisexual veteran with a service-connected disability as well as at least one transgender veteran with a service-connected disability, minority LGBTQ+ veterans, and LGBTQ+ veterans voluntarily and involuntarily separated from service. 

“We owe it to our veterans to provide them with the care, benefits, and services they deserve and have earned, regardless of who they are or who they love. Our veteran community is becoming increasingly diverse, and we have a duty to understand the unique needs of individual communities. It is now more important than ever that we ensure LGBTQ+ veterans have a voice in shaping the support they receive through the VA," said DelBene.

“LGBTQ+ veterans continue to experience unique struggles accessing the VA care and benefits they have earned,” said Pappas. “This has real impacts on the health and well-being of our veterans, and it is critically important that VA continue to take steps to address the specific concerns and needs of the LGBTQ+ veteran community. My legislation to establish an LGBTQ Veterans Advisory Committee at VA would give LGBTQ+ veterans a direct line to the Secretary, and ensure they are able to make their voices heard at VA.”

This legislation would require the advisory board to submit a report to the VA Secretary on the VA’s LGBTQ+ veteran programs and activities, which would include:

  • An assessment of the needs of LGBTQ+ veterans with respect to benefits and programs administered by the Secretary,
  • A review of the programs and activities of the Department designed to meet such needs, 
  • Committee recommendations.

This bill is supported by the Minority Veterans of America.