Press Release

Press Release Governor Healey Announces Veterans Equality Review Board (VERB) to Support Veterans Discharged Under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” Policy

For immediate release:
9/20/2023
  • Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll
  • Executive Office of Veterans' Services

Media Contact for Governor Healey Announces Veterans Equality Review Board (VERB) to Support Veterans Discharged Under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” Policy

Karissa Hand, Press Secretary

Boston — In a significant move to honor the rights and service of veterans discharged under the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” (DADT) policy, Governor Maura T. Healey today swore in five members to the newly established Veterans Equality Review Board (VERB). VERB’s goal is to provide an application process for certain veterans who received an “other than honorable discharge” under DADT and recommend their eligibility for state-based veteran benefits. 

“Today is a historic milestone for Massachusetts veterans, service members, and their families,” said Governor Maura Healey. “The creation of the Veterans Equality Review Board underscores our commitment to righting the wrongs of the past and supporting LGBTQ+ veterans who have served our nation with pride and honor. I’m grateful for the efforts of Secretary Santiago and his team to help ensure that these veterans receive the support and benefits they deserve.” 

“It's time we correct the injustices endured by LGBTQ+ service members discharged under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and make sure they receive the state benefits they've earned through their dedicated service,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, the daughter of a Navy veteran. 

“Every veteran deserves respect and recognition. We owe it to those who served in uniform to right past injustices,” stated Secretary Jon Santiago of the Executive Office of Veterans Services. “Though progress has been made towards LGBTQ+ equality, there's more work ahead. Providing state benefits to veterans with less than honorable discharges under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' represents a significant step in healing discrimination's wounds.” 

The responsibilities of VERB include: 

  • Reviewing applications submitted by veterans who believe they received an “other than honorable discharge” due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. 

  • Providing recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Services on granting state-based veterans benefits to applicants. 

  • Ensuring that veterans who qualify for benefits can access the support they need. 

The application process for veterans seeking benefits through the VERB is straightforward and accessible. Veterans can submit their applications online through the EOVS website, which provides clear instructions and lists all required documentation. 

VERB was created as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget to rectify historical injustices faced by LGBTQ+ veterans who served our nation under the restrictive DADT policy. The Board consists of five members: three appointed by the Secretary of the Executive Office of Veterans Services and two appointed by the Governor. These members will serve five-year terms and play a crucial role in ensuring veterans receive the support and benefits they deserve. 

"Twelve years after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the unfortunate truth is that many service members are still impacted by this policy and many of them call Massachusetts their home," said Senator John Velis, the Senate Chair of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs and sponsor of this policy in the FY23 budget. “The work of the Veterans Equality Review Board is all about ensuring that LGBTQ veterans across the Commonwealth have the same access to benefits and services that their fellow veterans have. This is a historic day and I am grateful to the Healey-Driscoll Administration, and my partners in the Legislature, for their commitment to doing right by our service members.” 
 

“While we cannot change the past, the creation of the Veterans Equality Review Board accentuates the Commonwealth’s dedication to all veterans, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Representative Gerard Cassidy, House Chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “VERB provides a beacon of hope for veterans who bravely served our country and were wrongfully discriminated against.” 

The five members of VERB, each with diverse backgrounds and expertise, are dedicated to ensuring fair treatment and support for veterans who endured discrimination and hardship due to their service under the DADT policy: 

  • Claire Burgess, PhD: Clinical Psychologist at VA Boston Healthcare System and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. 

  • Cliff Brown: Army veteran, Project Manager, Home Base, Massachusetts National Guard member. 

  • Lynette Gabrila: Army veteran, Director of Veterans Services for the Wachusett District, actively involved in charitable organizations and causes. 

  • Christine Serpe, PhD: Staff Psychologist at VA Boston Healthcare System and Assistant Professor at Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine. 

  • Rachel McNeill: U.S. Army Reserves veteran, veteran advocate, and community organizer. 

For more information about the Veterans Equality Review Board, please visit the Executive Office of Veterans Services website.  

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Media Contact for Governor Healey Announces Veterans Equality Review Board (VERB) to Support Veterans Discharged Under “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” Policy

  • Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll 

    Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll are committed to bringing people together and making Massachusetts a place where every worker, business and family can succeed.
  • Executive Office of Veterans Services 

    The mission of the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services (EOVS) is to act as the primary advocate on behalf of all the Commonwealth’s veterans.

    EOVS provides our veterans and their families with quality support services and directs an emergency financial assistance program for those veterans and their dependents who are in need.
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