Assistant Secretary in the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs Kayla Williams announced the guidance during a virtual White House event held on the tenth anniversary of the repeal of the policy.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough issued guidance to veterans benefits administrator adjudicators that military service members who have an “other than honorable discharge due solely to their sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status should be considered veterans who may be eligible for VA benefits,” Williams said during the virtual event.
“Many of these veterans received what are known as ‘other than honorable’ discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn,” Biden said in the statement.
Biden said in the statement that he believes the repeal of the policy “helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”
“No veteran should bear a less than honorable discharge based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He urged those service members who felt they were unjustly discharged to contact their military department’s Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records or Discharge Review Board.
“On behalf of the entire Department, I thank our LGBTQ+ service members — and your families — for the service you render each and every day,” he said.
The moves marks another step from the Biden administration to improve rights for LGBTQ+ service members and veterans.
Williams said the administration plans to do more to help LGBTQ+ veterans and military members.
“I’m confident that we as an agency will continue to find more ways to show through word and deed that VA serves all who served,” Williams added.
Williams is bisexual. When she first joined the US Army in 2000, she said she felt being bisexual was “another aspect of my civilian life that had to be set aside as long as I was in uniform.”
She married a man in 2005 and said she found it hard to maintain her bisexual identity for several years after she left the army. Williams decided to reclaim her bisexual identity last year.
“It was time for me to push for increased bi-visibility and show others like me that they’re not alone,” Williams said. “This anniversary feels particularly important to me, since it’s the first time I’ve publicly commemorated the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell while out of the closet.”
CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.