The U.S. Navy Security is urging all former sailors and marines who were forced out of the military because of their sexuality to come forward and apply to have their discharge repealed.
Secretary Ray Mabus made the announcement in a speech earlier this month at a special Pride event held at the Pentagon. In his speech, Mabus said the Naval Department decided to take this step as a means to restore benefits and right the historical wrongs of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which saw the removal of thousands of sailors from active duty.
“If you were discharged under ’Don’t ask, don’t tell,’ come in,” Mabus said. “The Board of Corrections for Naval Records will take a look at changing that discharge characterization…If you have colleagues that were discharged under that, ask them to come in—if it’s under the regulations, get that discharge characterization changed.”
The application process generally lasts about a year and begins with an electronic form that individuals can fill out on the Board for Correction of Naval Records’ website. From there, the application is downloaded and read by members of a three person board before being heard by an official Naval committee. Once the application is approved, the former sailor will have access to veteran education and health benefits restored.
“We value the open communication and dialogue with the boards of corrections and strongly feel that the increase in our relationships will help to both encourage individuals to apply for their upgrades and understand the process,” said Matt Thor, the executive director of the military LGBT advocacy group Outserve-SLDN, in a statement.
“The boards have made a very concerted effort to address LGBT service members in their processes; we applaud them for those efforts and look forward to our continued working relationship with them.”
Since the Naval Department began offering this service in 2011, the Navy has granted 123 discharge upgrades out of 413 requests. Those requests denied were usually ones in which the former sailor had also engaged in acts of insubordination or unruly conduct.
In addition to this service, the Pentagon is also set to make an official July 1 announcement lifting the military ban on trans service members, effectively removing the last vestiges of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”