Blog

LGBTQI+ Military Pardon and VA Benefits: What You Need to Know

LGBTQI+ Military Pardon and VA Benefits: What You Need to Know

On June 26, 2024, President Biden issued a pardon for LGBTQI+ service members who were unjustly discharged under discriminatory policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This pardon represents a significant step towards justice and recognition for Veterans who were unfairly targeted based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is now a direct link between the LGBTQI+ military pardon and VA benefits.

If you received a less-than-honorable discharge (such as a general discharge, other than honorable discharge, or bad conduct discharge) due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, you may now be eligible for VA benefits that were previously denied to you. This pardon covers convictions under Articles 80, 81, and 82 of the UCMJ

What LGBTQI+ Military Pardon and VA Benefits are Available?

The VA offers a wide range of benefits to eligible Veterans, including: 

  • Disability Compensation: If you have a service-connected disability, you may be eligible for monthly payments. 
  • Healthcare: The VA provides comprehensive healthcare services, including mental health care, to eligible Veterans. 
  • Education Benefits: Programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill can help you pay for college, vocational training, or other educational pursuits. 
  • Home Loan Guaranty: The VA can guarantee home loans, making it easier for you to buy a home. 
  • Life Insurance: The VA offers life insurance policies to veterans and their families. 

How the LGBTQI+ Military Pardon Affects Your VA Benefits Eligibility 

The pardon itself does not automatically change your character of discharge or guarantee VA benefits. However, it removes a significant barrier to accessing those benefits. With the pardon, you can now apply to have your discharge status upgraded to “Honorable” through the Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records. An honorable discharge is typically required for most VA benefits. 

How to Apply for an Upgrade and VA Benefits

Before contacting Berry Law for assistance in applying for VA benefits, you’ll need to complete steps 1-3 on your own. 

  1. Obtain a Certificate of Pardon: Apply for a certificate of pardon as soon as possible. 
  1. Gather Documentation: Collect all relevant documents related to your service and discharge, including your DD-214 (discharge papers), medical records, and any evidence of discrimination you faced. 
  1. File for a Discharge Upgrade: You can apply for a discharge upgrade using DD Form 149. Include your pardon certificate as evidence. 
  1. Apply for VA Benefits: Once your discharge upgrade is granted, you can apply for VA benefits through the VA website or at a local VA office. Berry Law is ready to help you with this part of the process. 

Expanded “Compelling Circumstances” Exception 

The VA has expanded its “compelling circumstances” exception, which may help some Veterans access benefits without a discharge upgrade, but seeking an upgrade is still advisable. 

Navigating the discharge upgrade process and VA benefits system can be complex. Consider seeking legal assistance from an experienced Veterans’ law attorney. They can help you gather evidence, file your claim, and advocate for your rights. Berry Law specializes in guiding Veterans through this process. Contact the Veterans Lawyers from Berry Law today for help navigating the LGBTQI+ military pardon VA benefits process. 

Disclaimer: This information is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. It is essential to consult with a qualified legal professional for advice tailored to your specific circumstances. 

LGBTQI+ Military Pardon VA Benefits Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Who received a presidential pardon on June 26, 2024? 

President Biden granted full and unconditional pardons to LGBTQI+ veterans convicted under Article 125 of the UCMJ for consensual acts with adults on June 26, 2024. 

2. What articles are covered by President Biden’s pardon?  

The presidential pardon extends to convictions under Articles 80, 81, and 82 of the UCMJ, acknowledging the historical discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ service members. 

3. When should Veterans apply for a certificate of pardon?  

Veterans eligible for a presidential pardon should apply for a certificate of pardon as soon as possible to access the full benefits and recognition it provides. 

4. How does a presidential pardon affect VA benefits?  

A presidential pardon does not automatically change a veteran’s character of discharge or guarantee VA benefits. Veterans should apply for a discharge upgrade to potentially access VA benefits. 

5. What is the expanded “compelling circumstances” exception?  

The VA has expanded its “compelling circumstances” exception, which may help some veterans access benefits without a discharge upgrade, but seeking an upgrade is still advisable. 

6. What are the next steps after receiving a pardon certificate?  

After receiving a certificate of pardon, veterans need to apply to their respective Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records using DD Form 149 to potentially access benefits. 

7. How do Veterans apply for a military record correction?  

Veterans with a presidential pardon should apply for a correction to their military records using DD Form 149, including the pardon certificate as evidence. 

8. Who can Veterans contact for assistance with the pardon process?  

Veterans affected by President Biden’s proclamation or needing help navigating the pardon process can contact Berry Law for support and assistance.  

9. What is a presidential pardon by proclamation?  

A presidential pardon by proclamation is a clemency tool used to grant forgiveness to a defined group, taking effect on the proclamation date and acknowledging past injustices. 

10. How does President Biden’s pardon impact LGBTQI+ Veterans?  

President Biden’s pardon for LGBTQI+ veterans is a landmark decision addressing historical discrimination, honoring the service of LGBTQI+ military personnel. 

11. Where can Veterans apply for a discharge upgrade?  

Veterans should apply to the Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records to upgrade their discharge status, which can potentially remove barriers to VA benefits. 

12. What document is essential for accessing benefits after a pardon?  

Veterans need to submit DD Form 149 along with their certificate of pardon to their respective Board for Correction of Military or Naval Records to access potential benefits. 

13. Who announced the presidential pardon for LGBTQI+ Veterans?  

President Biden announced the presidential pardon on June 26, 2024, granting full and unconditional pardons to LGBTQI+ veterans for consensual acts with adults.  

14. How does Berry Law support Veterans with the pardon process?  

Berry Law specializes in guiding Veterans through the pardon process, helping them navigate their VA benefit eligibility. 

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

Related Posts

VA Dependent Benefits: A Veteran’s Guide
VA Dependent Benefits: A Veteran’s Guide
How to File a PACT Act Claim
How to File a PACT Act Claim
Is Preparation for Decision a Good Sign for Your Claim?
Is Preparation for Decision a Good Sign for Your Claim?

Subscribe to our newsletter

The Service Connection

Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.

Skip to content