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LGBT Bar Announces Legal Victory for Transgender Veterans

U.S. Army National Guard Captain Jacob Eleazer and Paula M. Neira, RN, CEN, Esq. (LT, USN/USNR 1985-1991). (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The National LGBT Bar Association – the country’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied legal professionals – announced today that the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records (BCMR) and Navy Board for Correction of Naval Records (BCNR) will issue new military discharge paperwork (known as Form DD-214) to three transgender veterans, reflecting their correct names and identities. The veterans, Retired Army First Sergeant (Promotable) Dayna Walker; Retired Army Major Evan Young; and former Lieutenant Paula M. Neira, a Naval Academy Graduate, were represented by The LGBT Bar and Edwin G. Oswald and Stephen C. Lessard, both attorneys with the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Mr. Lessard is also a member of The Bar’s Military Working Group.

“Today’s win is, in many ways, life-changing for transgender veterans,” said D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of The LGBT Bar. “Discharge paperwork follows veterans from the time they leave the service until, quite literally, when they die. It is used in nearly every aspect of post-military life, from medical care to employment, banking and even the name engraved on a veteran’s tombstone. Today’s decisions finally ensure that Dayna, Evan, Paula and other veterans receive the respect they deserve. The LGBT Bar is proud to have won this important victory.”

The veterans named in the winning decisions have distinguished military careers.  Walker has over 25 years of military service experience, serving in various capacities as a Military Police Officer, Special Reaction Team Commander and within the United States Army Recruiting Command. Young served as media officer for NORAD and USNORTHCOM. He was also a signal NCO at Fort Polk, Louisiana and at an attack helicopter brigade in Germany. Neira graduated with distinction from the United States Naval Academy, qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer and served in mine warfare combat during Operation Desert Storm.

Neira’s win marks the first time the Navy has issued new paperwork for a transgender veteran, and the Army decisions follow a similar victory, earlier this year, for Army veterans in New Jersey. The Air Force also issued corrected paperwork in the past, as noted in a Military Law Working Group report issued by The LGBT Bar in 2013. That report also outlines the legal arguments used successfully in The Bar’s three cases, as well as the earlier victories in New Jersey.

Kemnitz called on the Department of Defense to follow the recent victories with a policy directive making such decisions routine. Despite the recent wins, there is no known written policy outlining that such requests by other veterans also be granted. “It is imperative that DoD ensure all veterans will have the ability to obtain new DD-214 paperwork,” she said. “The best way to make today’s victory permanent and meaningful is to issue a directive making it official DoD policy.”

 

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