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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation (S.45B/A.8097) Tuesday enacting The Restoration of Honor Act, giving LGBTQ veterans who were denied an honorable discharge because of their sexual orientation or gender identity the right to apply to have their New York State veterans' benefits restored. Under Don't Ask Don't Tell and similar policies hundreds of thousands of veterans received less than honorable discharges. As a result of that those individuals are ineligible for veterans' benefits. While military discharge decisions can only be formally changed by the federal government, The Restoration of Honor Act allows these veterans to apply to claim their New York State benefits.

"Countless service members were discharged from the military simply because of who they are. Adding insult to injury, they were then denied the services and benefits they earned as members of our armed forces who fought to protect our country and defend our ideals,"Cuomo said. "With this measure we are righting that wrong and sending a message to LGBTQ veterans that we have their backs, just as they had ours."

The bill also restores benefits eligibility for veterans who received less than honorable discharges as a result of military sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, or post-traumatic stress disorder. This makes New York the first state in the nation to restore the benefits of veterans who received less than honorable discharges either because of these traumas or because of their LGBTQ identity.

Senator Brad Hoylman said, "According to a study my office conducted in 2015, there are more than 50 New York State benefits denied to LGBTQ veterans who were less than honorably discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Even as gay and lesbian Americans have been able to openly serve in the military for nearly a decade, generations of LGBTQ Americans are still unable to access many veterans' benefits due to the status of their military discharge. We are finally addressing this injustice by passing the Restoration of Honor Act."

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