On July 10, 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a proposed rule to update its regulatory bars to benefits based on the character of a former service member's discharge. The update would allow former service members with other-than-honorable discharges to cite “compelling circumstances” when applying for health care and benefits from VA. Some mental and behavioral health conditions have been included as “compelling circumstances,” such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, substance use disorder, and others. The new proposed rule would also remove “homosexual acts” as a regulatory bar to benefits, closing a loophole that allows lesbian, gay, and bisexual veterans to be denied benefits based on their sexual orientation.

APA's comment (PDF, 346KB) to the proposed rule highlighted the importance of allowing former service members with mental health conditions to get access to VA benefits, especially since former service members with other-than-honorable discharges are more likely than other veterans to experience mental health issues and homelessness . APA's comment also applauded the removal of “homosexual acts” as a bar to benefits. No one should be barred from receiving benefits they have earned through their service due to their sexual orientation.

APA continues to advocate for increased access to mental health care for servicemembers and veterans and strongly opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

For more information, contact Sophie Friedl.