WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Chris Pappas (D-NH) introduced the bipartisan Voices for Veterans Act, which would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to include LGBTQ+ veteran representation in its Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans’ membership and scope. This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA),  Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans advises the VA Secretary on the needs of minority veterans including compensation, health care, rehabilitation, outreach, and other VA benefits and services. The committee assesses the needs of the nation’s over 5 million minority veterans and recommends program improvements to meet their specific needs.

“When we ask our young men and women to defend our nation, we make a promise to be there for them when they return home. But as things stand, the needs of LGBTQ+ veterans are often overlooked,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will expand the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to ensure our LGBTQ+ veterans have a voice and will receive the care and support they have earned.”

“As one of the leaders of the successful effort to repeal the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, I strongly believe that anyone who is qualified, able to be deployed into war zones, and wants to serve should be allowed to do so,” said Collins. “LGBTQ+ Americans who have defended our nation in uniform also deserve the full benefits they have earned. Our bipartisan bill would require the VA to include LGBTQ+ veteran representation on its Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to help ensure that the VA is appropriately delivering health care and other resources to these veterans.”

“Our country must ensure all our veterans have equal access to the care, benefits, and services they have earned for their sacrifice and service, regardless of who they are or who they love,” said DelBene. “Our veteran population is becoming more diverse every day, and it is more important than ever that LGBTQ+ veterans have a voice in how they’re served and cared for at the VA.”

“The exclusion of LGBTQ+ veterans on VA’s Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans is another remnant of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era, and it’s well past time that these veterans' voices are heard and represented on the committee,” said Pappas. “This bipartisan bill will help ensure that benefits and services are accessible and meeting the needs of the LGBTQ+ veterans community.”

“Who a veteran is or who they love should never stand in the way of the quality services and care they’ve earned in service to our nation,” said Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our bipartisan bill will expand this critical committee’s membership to include and amplify LGBTQ+ veterans’ voices and concerns, following through on our duty to ensure all veterans have equal access to the benefits, care, and respect they deserve.”

Under current law, LGBTQ+ veterans are not included in the committee’s membership or scope. The Voices for Veterans Act would expand its composition and reach to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender-nonconforming, and intersex veterans, ensuring the committee’s assessments and recommendations reflect the needs of this growing population.

More than a million LGBTQ+ veterans have already served our nation. The number has only grown in the decade since the repeal of the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

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