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"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."
Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, daughter of a Navy veteran, echoed this sentiment: "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."
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Secretary Jon Santiago of the Executive Office of Veterans Services added: "Every veteran deserves respect and recognition. We owe it to those who served in uniform to right past injustices. 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; and ensuring that veterans who qualify for benefits can access the support they need. The application process is straightforward and accessible online through EOVS website which provides clear instructions and lists all required documentation.
VERB was created as part of Fiscal Year 2023 budget with five members appointed by either Governor or Secretary: Claire Burgess (Clinical Psychologist at VA Boston Healthcare System), Cliff Brown (Army veteran), Lynette Gabrila (Army veteran), Christine Serpe (Staff Psychologist at VA Boston Healthcare System) and Rachel McNeill (U.S Army Reserves veteran). Senator John Velis stated: "Twelve years after repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, many service members are still impacted by this policy...The work of VERB is all about ensuring that LGBTQ veterans across Commonwealth have same access to benefits & services that their fellow veterans have." Representative Gerard Cassidy added: "While we cannot change past, creation of VERB accentuates Commonwealth's dedication to all veterans regardless sexual orientation."
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VERB is dedicated to ensuring fair treatment & support for those who endured discrimination & hardship due DADT policy & will serve five-year terms playing crucial role in providing necessary support & benefits for these deserving individuals. For more information about VERB please visit Executive Office Of Veterans Services website.
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