WASHINGTON, DC – A new Bill was introduced on June 26th, in the United States House of Representatives, suggests language to include LGBT representation on the National Veterans Advisory Committee.
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene from Washington’s 1st District introduced legislation to reauthorize and expand representation on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include LGBT veterans.
“As a nation, we have a responsibility to serve and support our veterans as well as they have bravely served us,” DelBene said. “For the last two decades, the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans has helped ensure that the voices of minority veterans are heard and their needs are met by the VA. In that time, the Committee’s membership has been broadened to include representation from additional constituencies, and incorporating LGBT veterans is a critical next step toward ensuring that all of our veterans are receiving the care and benefits that they deserve and have earned.”
Current authorization for the Advisory Committee will expire at the end of this year. The Voices for Veterans Act would reauthorize the Advisory Committee through 2017 and provide for LGBT inclusion in the membership. It was only after 9/11 that Congress modified the composition of this committee to include women veterans, in hopes to more fully reflect the diversity of the veteran population.
“Since the repeal of the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, gay and lesbian service members have been able to serve proudly and openly,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign said. “Yet, we know that there is still work to do to ensure full inclusion of all people who seek to serve their country, particularly transgender people. While we continue to work for full equality, this bill would take a critical step in ensuring that their voices are heard. Moreover, LGBT veterans have unique experiences and needs. The Voices for Veterans Act would ensure that the LGBT community is represented when addressing issues that affect minority veterans.”
The Committee was established in 1994 and reports annually to the VA Secretary with assessments of how well the VA programs and services are meeting the needs of minority Veterans. The Committee reviews reports and studies relating to minority veterans, examining their needs for compensation, health care, rehabilitation, outreach and other benefits and services.
“More than 1 million LGBT veterans have served our nation, and they continue to face unique challenges and face discriminatory laws that prevent full access to their earned veterans’ benefits,” Stephen Peters, a Marine veteran and president of the American Military Partner Association said. “It is undeniably important to reauthorize the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans and include the voices of these minority veterans and their families.”