Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) applauded the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (H.R. 6395), which included two amendments she authored regarding our nation’s veterans. The amendments:
• Direct the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly submit a report to Congress regarding discharge upgrades for former members of the armed forces who were discharged under policies discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
• Mandate the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study regarding women involuntarily discharged from the armed forces for pregnancy or parenthood.
“We should honor the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms by making sure the right to equality afforded all Americans, is also afforded to them,” said Brownley. “My legislation will begin the important dialogue necessary to right past wrongs, and to make sure our future military provides the same equities to its members we ask them to protect for everyone else.”
Brownley’s first amendment would require the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to collect and publicly publish data regarding how many former servicemembers have applied to have the character of their discharges reviewed and upgraded after being discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This will provide much-needed transparency regarding how many LGBTQ veterans are living with bad paper discharges, and how well our federal agencies are doing in reaching those veterans and restoring benefits access.
Brownley’s second amendment directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study to identify how many women were involuntarily discharged for pregnancy or parenthood from 1951-1976 and will also identify if there were disparities in those separations that took place based upon branch of service, rank, race, and ethnicity. The study will also identify any discrepancies in the character of those discharges and identify how that impacted access to VA healthcare and benefits. Lastly, this study will provide recommendations for improving access to resources for those women veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs.