Restoration of Honor or Stolen Valor?

Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) has a long history of introducing LGBT-agenda bills in the New York State Legislature.

Sen. Hoylman’s latest effort is the so-called New York State Restoration of Honor Act (Bill S.45-A-Hoylman). (A similar bill, Bill A.54-A-Buchwald, has been introduced in the Assembly.) This legislation relates to military veterans who received less-than-honorable discharges for making statements about their sexuality or gender identity, for engaging in consensual same-sex activity, or for engaging in transgendered behavior. The bill would make such veterans eligible for state and local government veterans’ programs, benefits and services.

This bill is carelessly drafted. It would allow applicants to request certificates of eligibility for benefits without providing the state with military discharge papers. An applicant could instead submit a personal affidavit describing the circumstances surrounding the discharge and certifying that he/she did not possess any relevant documents. If an applicant were to submit such an affidavit, the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs could seek backup documentation from the Department of Defense; however, the Division would not be required to do so. Worse yet, the bill explicitly states that an applicant could not be denied a certificate of eligibility due to a lack of documentation regarding the circumstances of his/her military discharge. In essence, the bill would allow access to veterans’ benefits based only upon the say-so of an applicant. This bill would not restore anyone’s honor; rather, it would open the door to stolen valor by creating a porous system that could easily be manipulated and defrauded by ineligible persons.[1]

[1]  The bill provides that a veteran shall only receive a certificate “if, with respect to their original discharge, there were no aggravating circumstances [other than LGBT-related matters] that would have independently led to a discharge characterization that was less than honorable.” However, the lax requirements set forth in this bill make it quite possible that the Division of Veterans’ Affairs would have no knowledge of such aggravating circumstances before issuing a certificate of eligibility.