...for correcting transgender veterans’ discharge paperwork
A new report released today by The National LGBT Bar Association, in conjunction with the National Institute of Military Justice (NIMJ), outlines a clear regulatory process by which the armed services are able to change DD214 military discharge paperwork to reflect transgender veterans’ proper names and genders. The memo, authored by Stephen C. Lessard, an attorney with the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and members of the LGBT Bar’s Military Law Working Group, concludes “that it is imperative that the DoD [Department of Defense] provide additional written guidance to the administrative bodies charged with correction of military records. Such guidance would advise those boards to utilize their broad authority in an effective, streamlined and uniform manner to allow transgender former service members to amend their DD214s to reflect the service members’ current names and genders.”
Despite repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, transgender troops are still excluded from service. Military medical regulations prohibit the service of transgender personnel, who are discharged with military records and paperwork identifying them as a gender other than that with which they identify. Those documents, in turn, can present future obstacles as transgender veterans seek healthcare, employment and other services.
“Incorrect service documentation presents significant challenges for transgender military veterans, but it could also be among the most easily fixed,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar. “It is blatant discrimination that transgender veterans, who have served with honor and integrity, cannot obtain service records that reflect who they are. The LGBT Bar is proud to be working with the country’s best military law experts to push for regulations to ensure transgender veterans are able to correct their military record to reflect their correct gender. The Department of Defense should implement a military-wide policy that allows other transgender veterans to obtain new discharge paperwork.”
The report issued today cites a 2004 decision from the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Records (AFBCMR) as a proper example for other service branches to follow. That decision provided transgender veterans the relief requested with regard to name and gender changes to DD214s. “In doing so,” the report notes, “the AFBCMR struck an appropriate balance between its interests in preserving the accuracy of military records and remedying injustices to these applicants.”
“The AFBCMR concluded that it had the legal authority to issue an additional DD214, reflecting the changes in name and gender,” the report also notes. The Board found in its decision that transgender veterans do, in fact, face significant obstacles because of DD214 paperwork that includes a gender and name inconsistent with their other identification. The decision, the memo notes, found that “the only way to fully address these burdens… is to issue a new DD214” reflecting the veteran’s correct name and gender.
“While the Air Force has found a clear and workable way to ensure transgender veterans do not face discrimination and prejudice via the DD214 paperwork, there is no uniform regulation across the services that would offer transgender veterans an avenue for correcting their military record,” said Eugene R. Fidell, president emeritus of NIMJ. “It is time for the Administration to direct each service to adopt such regulations so that transgender Americans who have served our country honorably, and with dignity, are treated with respect by our armed forces. Today’s memo outlines how, and why, that is not just possible, but imperative.”
A copy of the full memo is available online at www.LGBTBar.org.
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