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AVER Consults with Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

 

American Veterans For Equal Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AVER Consults with Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

Contact:

AVER Public Affairs, Denny Meyer, 718 849 5665, publicaffairs@aver.us AVER President, Steve Loomis, LTC EN USA,(Ret.) sloomis@swcp.com 

AVER Consults with Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee

by

Steve Loomis, LTC, EN, U.S. Army (Ret.) National President American Veterans for Equal Rights

18 September 2014

American Veterans for Equal Rights has again provided input on legislative issues important to LGBT Veterans to members of the United States Senate.  On September 10, 2014, I was invited to represent AVER in a meeting with the US Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to identify the current legislative issues important to the LGBT veterans community.  AVER’s national presence once again insured us a voice at the table for LGBT veterans.

AVER’s most important tasks are Outreach to our veterans, outreach almost to daily to Congress, the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, academia, media and other LGBT veteran groups.  We must regularly place our goals and concerns before our local and national agencies.  This is critical to support our veterans.  It is what Danny Ingram as our past President, and Denny Meyer as our public affairs officer have done for many years and what I have now undertaken on your behalf.

In this instance, we met in the Mansfield Room of the Capitol with fifteen Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed; Senator Tammy Baldwin; a military veteran; Senator Coons of DE; Senator Udall of Colorado; and Senator Corey Booker of NJ, among others. While AVER was the only veterans’ group present, many other LGBT groups were represented including American Military Partner Association and Human Rights Campaign.

 

 

 Steve Loomis

Steve Loomis, National President of American Veterans for Equal Rights explains LGBT veterans critical legislative issues to the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee on Capitol Hill.

 

Each group identified issues important to the LGBT community nationwide. As President of AVER, our country’s first LGBT veterans group, I indicated our issues came from our members through our national board of directors.  The legislative issues important to us as LGBT veterans, were:

 

√  –  1.  That military service must be open to transgender service members by administrative or legislative changes.

 

√  –  2.  It is essential to protect our hard won right, won when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, for all patriotic American volunteers to be allowed to serve in our nation’s armed forces regardless of sexual orientation.

 

√  –  3.  Ensure that the Veterans Administration shall consistently serve all veterans equally, with relevant and competent treatment of LGBT veterans.

 

√  –  4.  Since Equal Employment Opportunity protections do not currently cover LGBT military, such protections must be extended as a protected class to LGBT personnel serving in Department of Defense. This will provide LGBT service members access to the EEO officer inside the unit level.  Otherwise our service members must rely for protection from threat or harm on the commander who may be the source of such oppression.  The VA should then follow the lead of the DOD.

Then issues important to us as members of the larger veterans community were presented.  They are:

√  –  1.  Continue effective efforts to improve, oversee and adequately fund the Veterans Administration medical service for all veterans.

√  –  2.  Ensure Veterans Administration Medical support to our transgender veterans fully complies with the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5.

√  –  3.  Reform the rules on Military Sexual Assault as it applies to both men and women, gay and straight.  While we should not take away the commander’s review of convictions, their authority to overturn those convictions needs to be limited.

Finally, as citizens serving our country our legislative issues are;

√  –  1.  Reversing the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, in order to protect the voice of our citizens,

√  –  2.  Pass the Federal Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) with the same religious exemption of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act.  This critical LGBT protection has been delayed in Congress for over a decade.

√  –  3.  Finally, improved administrative relief for undocumented immigrants.  Over 267,000 immigrants identify as LGBT, and many are fleeing severe and deadly persecution, or seeking unification with their families.

These issues are important and favorable resolution of these issues will go a long way toward equal protection for LGBT Americans, protections that we as LGBT veterans served our country for and deserve along with all those who have gone in harm’s way for our country.

After the meeting adjourned, Senators Booker and Coons both personally approached me and asked for additional information to be provided to their staff on these issues. We will be sending letters with this information to each of the senators present and to my own New Mexico congressional delegation.  These are issues important to each of us as citizens, veterans and LGBT veterans and we should also reach out to all our members of Congress through our chapters and advocate for our issues.  It is that personal contact from their constituents in their local states that means the most and will sway them to our issues.

With the approach of AVER’s 25th Anniversary, our continued success depends very much on the support of each one of our members.  Your financial support gives us the resources to provide this type of vital input at the highest levels, and your membership allows us to speak on your behalf as the honored voices of LGBT US military veterans, a voice that is necessary to bring change not only to our veterans but our active duty service members as well.  AVER’s success depends very much on our continued outreach not only to members but to our local leaders through our chapters and to our national leaders through your National Board.  Working together we can continue to achieve progress in support of our LGBT veterans, service members, and their families.

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Steve Loomis is the National President of American Veterans for Equal Rights, the first LGBT veterans organization. A graduate of the University of New Mexico, he served as a decorated infantry officer in Vietnam and later as an combat engineer officer.

DONATE to http://aver.us/be-involved/sponsorship

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Happy Military Freedom Day

This day, September 19th, marks the last day, three years ago, of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Repeal of DADT, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 22, 2010, officially took effect on September 20th, 2011.  As flags were lowered at Retreat ceremonies on United States military posts and warships around the world, the nearly 100 year old ban against gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members became a part of history.  An injustice ended.  America became more free.  

This did not just happen.  It happened because many people worked very hard for a very long time to create the change that made the guardians of America’s freedom the representatives of the liberty they serve to safeguard.  American Veterans for Equal Rights was on the front line of this long engagement from the very start.  We can all be very proud of that accomplishment.  You created change.  You made this happen.  

The past few years have been amazing.  We now have openly gay general officers serving in our military.  The Department of Defense officially recognizes same-sex marriages and offers full benefits to the spouses of our brave warriors.  Marriage equality is sweeping our nation, a social revolution that is quite unlikely to have happened without the repeal of DADT.  Honored warriors, thank you for your hard work.  You made this happen.  This is your legacy.  

There is still work to be done.  The VA still does not offer full benefits to the legally married spouses of LGB service members.  Transgender Americans still cannot serve in the military.  Many states still do not recognize our same-gender marriages.  LGB service members do not have the unit level access to EEO officers to give them immediate protection from harassment and threats from their fellow service members.  Veterans who received less-than-honorable discharges for no other reason than their sexual orientation need to have those discharges upgraded so they can access the benefits they earned for their service.  We have work to do.  

As we near the beginning of our 25th year of service, please consider the accomplishments of this great organization and your role in making America a more free and just society.  This year we said goodbye to one of our founders, Chuck Schoen.  Chuck lived to see the repeal of DADT.  Let’s continue his work, and broaden his legacy to continue the change he started.  

Thank you to all the members of American Veterans for Equal Rights for your service to our nation and your commitment to making the United States military the true representatives of the freedom it exists to protect.  I ask that you continue with us as we step forward into our next quarter century.  American Veterans for Equal Rights remains the respected voice of LGBT military veterans in the United States.  When Congress, the VA, the Commander-In-Chief, and other major government agencies come looking for answers to their questions about LGBT veterans, they come to AVER.  Please keep that voice strong.  

Happy Military Freedom Day.  You did this.  Carry on. 

Danny Ingram, President Emeritus

American Veterans for Equal Rights

American Veterans for Equal Rights statement on VA Scandal

AMERICAN VETERANS FOR EQUAL RIGHTS
For Immediate Release
May 29, 2014

Re: American Veterans for Equal Rights statement on VA Scandal

Contact:
Denny Meyer, AVER Public Affairs, 718 849-5665
Steve Loomis, AVER President, president@aver.us

Atlanta, GA (May 29, 2014) – The welfare of America’s veterans is not an election year political game to place blame or see who can outdo the other in claiming to support our nation’s honored warriors.  It is our most sacred obligation to care for those individuals who secure our liberty.  As a Veterans Service Organization, American Veterans for Equal Rights demands that Congress be less concerned with fixing blame and more concerned with fixing the problems at the VA.  While these egregious problems must be corrected without further delay, we must also recognize those many doctors, nurses, and staffers at the VA across the country who have worked tirelessly with minimum resources to serve our veterans in their time of greatest need.  Congress now must provide the appropriate level of funding to meet the increasing demands of quality care to our military veterans, as failure to adequately fund the VA is the hidden truth behind this scandal.  It is a betrayal of unequalled proportions to give lip service to those who secure our freedom while denying the funding necessary to care for them. 

AVER is the nation’s LGBT Veterans’ Service Organization, serving military personnel, veterans, and their families since 1990.

 aver.us 

AVER Co-Founder Chuck Schoen has Passed away

Charles “Chuck” Schoen, one of the six founding members of American Veterans for Equal Rights, passed away on February 27th, 2014, in Desert Hot Springs, California, at the age of 88. Chuck was a Life Member of AVER and is survived by his fellow US Navy veteran and partner of 48 years, Jack Harris, also a Life Member of AVER. Chuck Schoen served in the United States Navy during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Chuck enlisted in the US Navy in, July, 1942, at the age of 17. Chuck worked his way up from enlisted to Lieutenant JG, serving 19 years as a nuclear specialist, holding a top secret clearance and travelling three times to the Mediterranean aboard aircraft carriers. Just short of his retirement Lt. Charles Schoen, a veteran of three wars, was Less-Than-Honorably discharged from the Navy for being gay. He lost his retirement and all benefits. Some years later, working with a private attorney, Chuck was able to upgrade his discharge to Honorable, but he never received the full retirement he rightfully earned as just reward for his service to the Navy and our nation.

In 1987 Chuck worked to form Veterans C.A.R.E. (Council for American Rights and Equality), one of several LGBT veterans groups organizing to fight the ban. The group participated in the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in October, 1987. In 1990 Chuck met with five other organizations in Minneapolis to form GLBVA (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Veterans of America), later AVER. That same year he travelled to Washington, D.C. to testify on the issue of gays in the military before the United States House Subcommittee on Oversight and Veterans Affairs.

Chuck Schoen worked his entire life to end discrimination against LGBT Americans in the United States Armed Forces, and he lived long enough to see the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011. Chuck is remembered as one of the quiet giants of our community, a man whose determined efforts to end injustice against LGBT people helped change our nation and help America move forward in our destiny to become the largest, most diverse society in the history of the world to embrace equal rights, equal responsibilities, and equal respect for every citizen. For this, and for his remarkable life and service to our country, the members of AVER express our heartfelt gratitude for a life well lived.

Lieutenant Chuck Schoen, shipmate, you stand relieved. We have the watch.

Chuck, in his own words:
http://vimeo.com/56662846

AVER would like to express our deepest sympathy to our fellow veteran Jack Harris in the loss of his partner. Chuck has been cremated, and his ashes will be mixed with those of Jack following his death, both to be interred together at sea.

Danny Ingram, Immediate Past President
American Veterans for Equal Rights