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President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 at the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C., Dec. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama signs the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Now, Congress needs to undo some of the damage of past injustice.
Before Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed, as many as 114,000 service members were discharged because they were gay, and many of those were dishonorable or other than honorable discharges. The damage those dishonorable discharges have done can't be undone, but the status of the discharges themselves could be, and two House Democrats—Wisconsin's Mark Pocan and New York's Charlie Rangel—have proposed a bill to do just that.

Explaining that many states treat dishonorable discharges as felonies, and that service members discharged for being gay may have had trouble getting work or even been prohibited from voting or getting unemployment benefits or veteran benefits, Pocan details the remedies of the proposed bill:

The “Restore Honor to Service Members Act,” turns the current broad review policy outlined in a memo from the Under Secretary of Defense into clear and settled law. It ensures all services members who were previously discharged because of their sexual orientation receive a timely, consistent and transparent review of their records so that gay veterans who served honorably have their records rightfully upgraded to honorable.  It also removes any indication of a service member’s sexual orientation from the record, so they are not automatically “outed” to those accessing their record and protects against future discrimination by decriminalizing consensual relations between same sex couples, bringing military law in line with Supreme Court rulings.
Reasonable responses to this bill include: Yes. Now. Right this minute. Last week. How has this not already happened?

Will congressional Republicans have such reasonable responses? Somehow, I'm not confident in that. But this is one to watch—upgrading these discharges will undo past injustice, injustice that the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell ended for today's military but that is still haunting too many veterans.

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Comment Preferences

  •  it's the right thing to do. (6+ / 0-)

    How will it effect the budget?

    Meaning, will these changes in discharge status make these vets eligible for benefits they weren't before?

    "So I'm at the wailing wall, standing there like a moron, with my harpoon." - Emo Philips

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:06:33 AM PDT

  •  Does anyone (5+ / 0-)

    really believe the bigots on the Republican side would vote for this, or even allow it to be brought up for a vote? This will be yet another test to see how much they REALLY support those who have served our country. I'm not holding my breath on this one.

  •  How many house republicans even know (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    merrywidow, LollyBee

    what a military discharge looks like?

    honorable or otherwise

    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:07:39 AM PDT

  •  This ought to be interesting. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, kayfromsouth, JGibson

    Go along with the liberal, Kenyan, anti-Christ or screw over our veterans? Tough choice for a Teabagger.

    Welcome To The Disinformation Age!

    by kitebro on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:08:55 AM PDT

  •  Next comes questions of financial impact (0+ / 0-)

    except  I'm guessing that unfortunately a bill for symbolic restoration of dignity (a necessary and important first step) can be successfully passed only by explicitly waiving fiscal damanages.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:11:54 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, because poverty is dignified... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, LilithGardener

      I know what you mean.

      It'll be interesting- If they claim too expensive, they're admitting the # of folks who served while gay.

      The more they bitch abut the $, the more they demonstrate the scale of the issue. If it was only a few folk, the financial impact would be minimal.

      Double edged sword- hopefully, they'll find a way to fall on both edges.

  •  You should add "Call or write your Congress- (0+ / 0-)

    person" comment and link to your page.

    "But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence." - President Clinton

    by anonevent on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:15:20 AM PDT

  •  The House will never vote on this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DrTerwilliker, lgmcp

    Unless they stick an Obamacare repeal or condom ban on it too.

  •  fixing what was broken (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, LilithGardener

    in the past...

    hopefully many of these vets are still here to benefit from this "fix".  

    Usually when our nation (our legislators) get around to "correcting" these errors of our history, the most direct victims of the "broken parts" have long passed away.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:20:17 AM PDT

  •  Did any actually get Dishonorable? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's a classification typically reserved for felons. A typical discharge for smaller offenses, like doing drugs or DUI, is 'General under Other Than Honorable Conditions' OTH.

    If anyone recieved a full blown Dishonorable just for being gay that's preposterous. All of them should be re-classed to Honorable, with their RE (re-enlistment) code changed to 1A.

    Please proceed, Governor.

    by USArmyParatrooper on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:21:47 AM PDT

  •  Mark Pocan (0+ / 0-)

    Is the bomb! True progressive from Wisconsin Ya hey!

  •  Long overdue. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And yet another excuse for Republicans on the far-r-r right to make speeches and statements denigrating gays and voicing outrage at the idea of reviewing the reasons for their being dishonorably or less than honorably discharged from the military.  Time for Kossacks to fire up the popcorn popper and wait for the hilarity to ensue, but another thorn in the side of those who are counting on this bill's passage for their lives to be restored and their honorable service to be recognized.

    "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

    by SueDe on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:32:27 AM PDT

  •  How about pardons for those that were imprisoned? (6+ / 0-)
  •  This is such an important step (0+ / 0-)

    We owe it to these service men and women to do the right thing for them. And I don't just mean restoring their rights and benefits, but a ceremony and public acknowledgment of their time in service.

    They can never get back was was stolen from them, and I don't just mean lost careers.

    "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

    by LilithGardener on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:38:47 AM PDT

  •  Other than Honorable is not a Dishonorable... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp, trumpeter, ksuwildkat, Mokurai

    A Dishonorable Discharge can only be given to an enlisted Soldier after a General Court Marshal.  This can only be part of a conviction for the most serious of offenses. (Desertion, rape, murder, etc) and is considered a felony conviction.  Under the 1968 Gun Control act this is a bar to owning a firearm.

    Other than Honorable is an Administrative discharge.  It is for people who have failed to uphold their duties, had conduct not appropriate for the military. It can be for conduct that results in conviction in a civil court (theft, assault, etc) or from civil hearing - such as divorce due to adultery.  The OTH discharge is seen as equivalent to a DD, but with out the restrictions a felony conviction would have.  It can be legally used to discriminate against in hiring though.

    An OTHD will bar you from employment with most governments, any contract work with the Fed Gov, deny you a security clearance, and removes all your benefits. (GI Bill, pension, VA "help", funeral honors, etc)

    It is very unlikely that homosexual conduct resulted in a DD without their being some other event happening.  (not imposable, but very unlikely)  It should not be hard for someone given an OTH specifically for violation of Art. 133/134 to have that removed and be reissued a new DD214.

    Where the cost will be is if the law allows the newly General Discharged (Honorable) to be able to claim benefits as if they had served the full 20 years.  Someone put out at 18.5 years might make a great argument for that, but someone put out at 5 years...can of worms.

    Some times to avoid problems, OTHD's were used but did not list homosexual conduct as the reason.  It would be fore non-compliance with directives, failed APFT's, fighting, etc.  General issues that everyone knew was because the Soldier was gay but no one wanted to admit that was the case and found other reasons to put them out.  That is going to be the real challenge.

    I can see someone with an OTHD for fighting, who got into fights because they were being harassed for being gay.  But that is not what is on the DD214, fighting is.

    Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

    by DrillSgtK on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 11:52:11 AM PDT

    •  Good information, thanks. (0+ / 0-)

      I'm sure OTH discharges are really what we're talking about reversing here.  And yes, the cost issues are where the rubber meets the road.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 12:16:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Excellent Post (0+ / 0-)

      thank you!

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 12:44:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  On the OTH (0+ / 0-)

      in 26+ years of service I have never seen an OTH given except as part of a Courts Martial.  Going the purely administrative route for an OTH is pretty extreme.  Not saying it isnt down, just that it is rare.

      I know the Air Force has had a pretty bad record in the witch hunt area with gays so I dont doubt that someone has received an OTH for being gay but Im willing to bet there were other charges too.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 12:48:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We use OTH's all the time. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        My reserve unit has been using OTH for five years.  Failure to show up to Battle Assembly, failing to pass two APFT's in one year after a reduction in rank for failing two APFT's (4 total), drug use, getting convicted for DWI for the third time.

        On Active Duty we used it for a Soldier who was working off post and stealing from his employer and got caught, about the time he came out of county lock up we put him out.

        I've processed OTH's while on AD for AWOL, repeated theft, drug possession, vandalism, and sexual harassment.

        On Active Duty you have more tools so you don't use OTH as much, but in the Reserves you have a small selection of corrective tools.  I can't confine a Soldier to quarters with a three times a day report requirement when they only put on the uniform two days a month.

        Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

        by DrillSgtK on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 04:02:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Roger all (0+ / 0-)

          Kinda sad that Reserves can have that many issues.

          Yes, we have MANY more tools.  And I will admit its been a long times since I was in a line unit.  I only had one of my soldiers OTH and that was for selling LSD.  But we took him to Court Martial first.  Most of the other problem children got General Discharges as long as it was a military specific crime.  Got to say I think an OTH for PT failure is a bit extreme but that is the true nature of the UCMJ - one commander can be completely different than another and they are both right.

          It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

          by ksuwildkat on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 04:53:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  OTH for PT failure is guidance from USARC (0+ / 0-)

            United States Army Reserve Command has directed us to enforce the AR 190 standards and put people out who won't pass a PT test in two years.  

            Your first failure will result in a counseling to pass in six months or be reduced in rank one grade.  If you fail that next APFT, you are reduced in rank and counseled that you have six months to pass or initial discharge proceedings will be started, you fail that one and the OTH is prepared and six months later you have to pass the APFT or you are discharged.

            Reserves are hard to deal with.  Most Soldiers would do fine on AD, pass the APFT, stay out of trouble because you have them working every day.  But with the RC and i'm sure the NG, you are not their main pay check except in rare -sad- cases.  (I've had people who were unemployed and the weekend pay was half their take home each month.)

            They spend 28 days "on the block" and two days at BA.  Unless they really focus, it is too easy to not do PT on your own, to not do the mandatory training, or even prepare for the weekend.  Add in that the average take home for an E-4 is $200 and they can make that in one night delivering pizzas.  They start to resent coming to BA and doing "grunt work" or boring training.

            Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

            by DrillSgtK on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 09:05:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Command Influence? (0+ / 0-)

              Goodness USARC is walking the very edge of the illegal command influence line from what you describe.  All of those are administrative actions but they come soooo close to de facto punishment that I am surprised no one has challenged them.  

              All of the Reserve/Guard guys I have worked with have been pretty senior so they have figured out how to stay in shape.  I dont envy anyone trying to keep junior kids in shape just on drill weekends.  

              It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

              by ksuwildkat on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 01:20:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  It should have been part of the repeal bill. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But since it wasn't, the sooner it's passed, the better.

    Would there have been that much opposition if a review process for restorative purposes had been part of DADT repeal?

    •  I think there would have been, yes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter, JBL55

      because of the devil-is-in-the-details aspects such as those raised just above by DrillSgtK.  

      Hurry up and get the basice the principle in place, and do more mop-up later, was IMO probably a very prudent strategy under the circumstances.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 12:18:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sad to say, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DSPS owl

    it's guaranteed that at least some will say 'being gay in the military was illegal then, so they deserve Dishonorable Discharges.'  Just wait for it - guaranteed to happen.  :(

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 12:21:28 PM PDT

    •  and they would be partially right (0+ / 0-)

      actually all the way right but that doesnt mean we dont try to reduce the damage.

      In another post I got in a discussion about that very thing.  Someone claiming bad faith acts by commanders posted two cases that he felt demonstrated the military only cared about gay sex not sexual assault.  Both were from the mid 80's - before even DADT.  The commanders were enforcing the law at the time.  

      Colorado just made pot legal for recreational use.  Doesnt change any convictions for use from last year.  And it doesnt make the public servants who enforced those laws evil.

      It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

      by ksuwildkat on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 12:53:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Please tell me this is a no-brainer and will pass. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Do nothing Bill (0+ / 0-)

    As Admiral Akbar would say, ITS A TRAP!

    DrilSergeantK explains the mechanics of discharges above.  Bottom line is that gay service members receiving Dishonorable discharges is a myth.  Maybe it happened but I doubt it.  OTHs were pretty rare too and in almost every case there were other charges that would not be covered by this change.  

    Too me this is just fodder for the right and not in the way you might think.  The right will get worked up and the left will say "see, we are pro gay rights" but in the end it will never pass the House.  Even if it did by some miracle it would be false hope for the small number of homosexuals who were discharged with an OTH.  They will spend a ton of time and effort on an appeal and lose because the military will be able to say the other charges would have resulted in the same discharge.

    I saw a lot of folks put out for being gay.  99% of those were Chapter 16 - good of the service.  Its when the Army and the service member mutually decided its best to part ways.  In every case I saw the service member got an honorable discharge.  Putting someone out on an OTH is just a pain in the butt and very few commanders cared that much about soldiers sex lives to waste time on an OTH.

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Wed Jun 19, 2013 at 12:44:03 PM PDT

  •  This is good news, n/t. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Republican/Blue Dog Support (0+ / 0-)

    As a general guess, this bill would have a base support of 204 votes.

    Most of the Democratic Caucus would support it outright. As far as Blue Dogs go: John Barrow and Jim Matheson both supported the repeal of DADT in 2010, but Collin Peterson, Mike McIntyre, and Nick Rahall did not. Not sure if they, or freshmen Blue Dogs like Pete Gallego would vote for this.

    As for Republicans, I would assume this would get the support of every Republican who supported DADT repeal (Reichert, Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lehtinen, Campbell, & Dent) plus a few from the class of 2010/2012 (Hanna, Amash?, Rigell?)

    Not a great outlook for the bill, but not a terrible one either.

  •  undo stigma (0+ / 0-)

    I had to hide to retire. I could do different? I could not lose my pension, although stress may have contributed to my lower rate.

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