LGBT Veterans Outreach Bill Passes Senate Committee

Sacramento, California - The office of Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez reports that Assembly Bill 1565 to assist older LGBT veterans in accessing their military benefits passed today on a vote of 4-2 in Senate Veterans Affairs committee.

“California is the state with the largest LGBT veteran population, yet these veterans do not access their military benefits and health care services at the same rate as their heterosexual counterparts,” said Pérez. “There are many reasons why this happens – but fundamentally it’s the legacy of past discriminatory policies.  For older veterans who served in the decades prior to and during ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, there is a lot of fear and distrust.”

AB 1565 authorizes a grant program to support culturally competent outreach to older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) veterans to help facilitate access to their earned military benefits and health services that are provided through County Veterans Service Offices.

According to a survey conducted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, out of the people they serve, 22% or 681 individuals are LGBT veterans, and out of those, only 4% were receiving their earned benefits. The result of this gap is that LGBT veterans go without adequate care, which has serious health implications for the identification and treatment of disease, particularly as the population ages.

“When LGBT veterans go without adequate care, it can lead to serious health impacts,” continued Pérez.  “The situation worsens as the population ages, and we have people with chronic conditions, service-related injuries, and age-related diseases going untreated. Given the sacrifices veterans have made in serving and protecting our country, this is a sensible strategy to help them access adequate health care."

Prior to the hearing, Pérez reached an agreement with veterans’ groups that had initially voiced opposition to the bill due to a misunderstanding about the nature of the services to be funded by the grant program.  Amendments are in process and will be made when the bill is next heard in Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The idea for this bill was brought to Pérez by the Coachella Valley chapter of Veterans for Peace. 

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