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BREAKING: OutServe-SLDN Opposes Confirmation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie

Monday, July 23, 2018   (0 Comments)

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
Contact: Andy Blevins, Director of Law & Policy
Email:ablevins@outserve.org
Phone: 202-738-9292

 

BREAKING: OutServe-SLDN Opposes Confirmation

of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie


 

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) July 23, 2018 – OutServe-SLDN, the nation’s leading organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) military and veteran community, opposes the confirmation of Robert Wilkie as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Mr. Wilkie, previously the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness at the Department of Defense (DoD), aided in implementing a ban on open transgender service in the military, a policy that is currently being challenged in the courts by OutServe-SLDN and co-counsel Lambda Legal.


“We fundamentally oppose the confirmation of Mr. Wilkie, and we condemn the message it sends that anti-transgender officials are qualified for key positions within our government,” said Matt Thorn, President & CEO of OutServe-SLDN. “While Mr. Wilkie may not have plans to roll back existing care, having a publicly anti-transgender leader of the VA will not make transgender veterans feel safe and supported by an agency that is supposed to exist for them. We oppose the confirmation of Mr. Wilkie and stand by our brave transgender veteran siblings who deserve to access the benefits and care they earned in an environment that recognizes and applauds their service to our country.”


“The messaging Mr. Wilkie endorsed and implemented through the transgender ban frames transgender people as burdens, and as fundamentally incapable of being able to contribute to society when we live openly and authentically,” said Kai River Blevins, Director of Education, Chapter, and Veteran Services of OutServe-SLDN. “It is clear that Mr. Wilkie is dedicated to preventing transgender people from fully participating in public life, and that he is ignorant to the realities of being transgender and existing in a world that is hostile to our existence. This confirmation jeopardizes the work of the VA LGBT Health Program and other advocates for equal and fair treatment within the VA.”


OutServe-SLDN currently serves the LGBT veteran community through direct legal and advocacy services and community education programs. Recently, through its online education program, OutServe Knowledge Online (OSKO), OutServe-SLDN featured two sessions focused on supporting our veterans and service members experiencing mental health crises and navigating the VA’s LGBT Health Program. In addition to online education initiatives, OutServe-SLDN provides LGBT cultural competency trainings to administrators, program managers, and other social service and healthcare providers. The organization is committed to ensuring all veterans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receive the high-quality, competent care they deserve; it will continue working with the VA on the local, state, and federal levels to provide LGBT veterans with a welcoming and affirming environment when accessing care and benefits.


“Despite some of Mr. Wilkie’s prior statements that seem to signal continued support for transgender veterans at the VA, his actions at the Department of Defense have been detrimental to the transgender community and undermine any statement in support of transgender veterans,” said Peter Perkowski, Legal Director of OutServe-SLDN. “We cannot risk that Mr. Wilkie will harm the LGBT veteran community in the same way that he has already tried to harm our LGBT service members.”


Through its “Restore Honor, Restore Dignity” program, OutServe-SLDN’s legal department has assisted hundreds of LGBT veterans in upgrading discharge paperwork to remove their dead names and to reflect the true character of their service to this country. It also serves as the premier LGBT-focused VSO in the country, representing LGBT veterans in VA benefits cases and appeals, as well as providing cultural competency trainings to interested VSOs, state veteran agencies, and community partners, streamlining advocative efforts throughout the country for the LGBT veteran community.


For more information on legal and advocacy services, you can contact OutServe-SLDN’s legal and policy department at ablevins@outserve.org. For more information on education programs and cultural competency trainings, you can contact the organization’s education department at kblevins@outserve.org.



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OutServe-SLDN (OS-SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. With more than fifty chapters and 6,000 members around the world, OS-SLDN supports a professional network of LGBT military personnel and strives to create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. OS-SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. For more information, visit www.outserve-sldn.org.



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