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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, one of the advances that led to this moment.
It's an equality first from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but in a sad way:
Tracy Dice Johnson, a staff sergeant with the Army National Guard, announced Sunday that the VA would recognize her marriage to the late Donna Johnson, who died in a suicide bombing attack about eight months before last year’s Supreme Court decision that guaranteed equal federal benefits for all legally married couples.

The decision means Johnson will receive dependency and indemnity compensation, which goes to the spouses, children and some parents of service members who died while on active duty. The VA will pay her retroactively to the date of her late wife’s death, according to an announcement from the American Military Partners Association.

The two big legal advances in equality—marriage equality and the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell Now—are wrapped up in one story here, and that's great. Now if we could just work on producing fewer war widows, and also extending the right to not be fired for being gay from the military to all workplaces.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Mon May 19, 2014 at 08:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Consistency is a good thing (5+ / 0-)

    So much for some of the complaints about the commitments of LGBT, Inc.  But

    Now if we could just work on producing fewer war widows, and also extending the right to not be fired for being gay from the military to all workplaces.
    Absolutely. And soon.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon May 19, 2014 at 08:20:02 AM PDT

  •  As well it should! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoregon, Calamity Jean, Cadillac64
    The decision means Johnson will receive dependency and indemnity compensation, which goes to the spouses, children and some parents of service members who died while on active duty.
  •  They should also get pensions if (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, Cadillac64

    Hetero widows receive them.

    "To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all." - Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

    by blueoregon on Mon May 19, 2014 at 09:39:06 AM PDT

    •  The don't - either one (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chickenfarmerwood

      Military retirement is paid to the member only.  If the service member dies, the retirement dies with them.  There is a program called Survivors Benefit Plan - SBP - that provides a reduced benefit (55%) upon the death of the service member.  The problem is that it is so expensive that it is only worth it if you die the day after you retire.  You are much better off buying a large level term policy before retiring - exactly what I will be doing next year.

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

      by ksuwildkat on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:16:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very true, but if the service member is disabled, (0+ / 0-)

        it can be impossible to get life insurance.  My husband kept his insurance from the Navy, which you can also do if you pay the premiums.  However, it is only worth $50,000.  When he was ruled 100% service connected, they gave him an aditional $10,000 without having to pay a premium. We also got a couple of those guarenteed life policys, not cheap and only for $10,000 each, but better than nothing.  We are raising a granddaughter, so life insurance is important.  Also, I should be eligible for a pension when he dies from the VA because he is 100% service connected and we have been married for 39 years in June. I think you have to be married 10 years, and 10 of those years have to be when the disabled one is 100%.  They don't make it easy and I know of many wives who thought they were eligible only to find out they weren't.  

  •  this is another example of social change which (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, blueoregon, Cadillac64

    is necessary.  A few days ago, I ran across the idea that veterans deserve a Purple Heart for psychic wounds such as PTSD.  It makes perfect sense to me since the number of medals available is not finite and one man receiving a commendation or medal does not tarnish or diminish that of another.  However many people oppose awarding Purple Hearts for PTSD victims because it represents change.

    Equality in vets' benefits is another battle ground in the social change which we are undergoing.  Hopefully at some future date, historians will view this era with wonderment as to how such things could even be a question much less items for dispute and disagreement    

    •  I dont agree (0+ / 0-)

      The Purple Heart is quite possible the ONLY award that has maintained its original standards and original purpose.  I have suffered plenty of mental issues from one too many deployments but its not the same as having metal rip through your flesh.  

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

      by ksuwildkat on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:22:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It appears we have to agree to disagree (0+ / 0-)

        as physical wounds may heal or not heal, so that you may recover with few ill effects or late effects or you may spend the rest of your life suffering pain from permanent nerve damage, for example.  Psychological pain works the same way, and in some cases, pain that is considered physical is actually psychological.

        Purple Heart dates from 1917 when it replaced the older Badge of Merit, which was instituted by George Washington.  At the time of its institution, the understanding of what constituted a wound has expanded, esp. given the number of TBIs suffered by our troops from IEDs.  The military even denied the existence of PTSD following VN even though the medical literature noted it as early as the Civil War and classical historians noted it.

        Today, the military acknowledges the existence of PTSD, which represents a major sea change in official policy.  I think we can anticipate more changes as time progresses and we understand the nature of psychological wounds more      

        •  Yup, spot on (0+ / 0-)

          Agree with all that.  But here is the thing, everyone who gets the purple heart suffers from mental trauma too.  I suppose there might be one or two outliers these days who land, get hit by shrapnel stepping off the plane, are immediately evacuated and never return.  Outliers.  But most folks are going through daily stress and then after multiple attempts the bad people get it right and you are bleeding all over the place.  In essence we have multiple "PTSD" awards in the form of the Combat Action Badge and the Bronze Star.  Those say - someone was trying to kill me for an extended period of time.  What the Purple Heart says is "Someone went a step beyond try and either just missed or succeeded."  Every combat related death results in a Purple Heart.  

          I love my Air Force brothers but when I hear the drone pilots in Nevada complaining about their PTSD I want to punch them in the face.  I get it, its a stressful job.  But there is a difference between "Some days after a tough 12 hours of pressing the button to whack bad guys I so am stressed that just can't go home and be around my family so I end up a a casino bar where I can't even enjoy my $3 steak and eggs whiteout 4 or 5 beers to numb the pain" and "18 months down, 6 to go and I can see my family again.  Only 99 more patrols to left…."  And its not just the patrols.  In both Iraq and Afghanistan the closest I came to getting killed was from indirect fire while I was asleep.  I have a pre-bedtime routine that unless I do I won't sleep and it is all about night time rocket attacks.  

          The bastards already tried to give themselves an award that would have been higher than a Silver Star for their daring feats of video game glory.  They already tried giving Bronze Stars to crews loading pallets in Florida ("they sometimes worked 14 hours straight!).  They already tried giving Bronze Stars to Air Force FINANCE people because they were supporting combat operations. They will be all over a PTSD based Purple heart.  

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

          by ksuwildkat on Wed May 21, 2014 at 03:33:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  From memory, as it has been some 40 years (0+ / 0-)

            it seems that the Purple Heart requires you to be in a "combat zone".  If you are hit outside a CZ, you are considered simply an accident.  That was one controversy years ago during VN as the whole country was potentially a free fire zone, given the infiltration by VC.  You could get zapped outside a bar in Saigon as easily as you could on LRP in the highlands but only the LRP rated a purple heart.

            Again, this is from memory and my memory fades a bit more each day.  I could very well misremember

  •  Okay. (0+ / 0-)

    But what's a "gay war?"

    -- GW Bush

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Mon May 19, 2014 at 11:29:11 AM PDT

  •  Wow, you posted something NICE about the military (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wesmorgan1, chickenfarmerwood

    its a refreshing change.

    Despite what you might think about the military, we have CONSISTENTLY been ahead of the rest of society on social change.  Even DADT was ahead of its time.  The problem was that President Gore was not able to turn it into full acceptance (like we have now).  

    Thank you.

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

    by ksuwildkat on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:19:25 PM PDT

    •  Many in the military knew there were Gay soldiers, (0+ / 0-)

      and sailors, just didn't worry about it.  My husband had a friend in the Navy, used to bring him home to dinner, a barber, who before he joined was a hairdresser.  He had been married and divorced, had a daughter, was really trying hard not to be gay, but it was very obvious he was.  Everyone knew it, just didn't care.  He was a nice guy, didn't hit on anyone in the military, did his job.  He cut my hair, did such a good job, I used him for years as my only hairdresser, until we moved.  No one since has been able to get it right.  He got out after his tour of duty, went to work in a shop, found a partner, unfortunately both found out they were HIV positive, but he has been lucky to get good care and last I saw him, was doing good.  The military has really been ahead of the game in most cases.  Yes, there were probably the idiots who made an issue of it, but not many.

      •  My experience too (0+ / 0-)

        My first duty assignment as a Private there was a guy who we all knew was gay.  Didnt matter to us.  He did his job and that is what mattered.  Fast forward to when I was a Commander in 2001.  There were at least 10 gay soldiers in my company.  I didnt ask, they didnt tell.  Every once in a while my wife would steer me away from topics with certain people and she would make sure that they knew not to say anything to me.  Because it was the "law of the land" I would have enforced the policy.  I would not have been happy about it but I would have.  You either follow orders or resign.  Once I was out of command it was no longer my problem and I could act surprised (sometimes I dint act!  No Gadar!).

        99% of the Army was implementing DADT long before it became a real policy.  Not many people cared as long as you were doing your job.  I like the current policy a lot more.

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

        by ksuwildkat on Wed May 21, 2014 at 02:58:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lots of progress on social issues under Obama (0+ / 0-)

    Of course it's not just his doing. Much of it was congressional Dems, good rulings, outside pressure and activism, and the march of time. What this tells me is that the social conservative movement is in serious decline, a shadow of its former self. If we haven't yet won that war, we're certainly winning it.

    The real locus of anti-progressive power these days and for the foreseeable future isn't with the batshit "god, guns and gays" crowd, but with economic conservatives and neoliberals, who continue to push for lower taxes, cuts to social welfare programs, deregulation, and smaller government (except, of course, when it serves their needs, in which case they love big government).

    Progress on this front has been quite disappointing under Obama, to say the least (and, again, it's not just his fault, but he does share much of the blame). There have been bright spots, but structurally, we're not that much better off than we were before he took office. Pity. Economic unfairness is itself a form of social injustice. It's great that gay people can now get married, but what if they can't find jobs? No greater stress inducer on a relationship than finances.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:25:54 PM PDT

  •  Will this help that poor widow in Idaho who is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smileycreek

    being denied the right to buried along side her wife? Freaking Idaho discriminating against the dead. Grr...

    GOP 2014 strategy -- Hire clowns, elephants, and a ringmaster and say "a media circus" has emerged and blame Democrats for lack of progress. Have pundits agree that "both sides are to blame" and hope the public will stay home on election day.

    by ontheleftcoast on Tue May 20, 2014 at 05:25:55 PM PDT

  •  I hope it does help her. I understand another vet (0+ / 0-)

    offered his place for her.  

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