Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, sent two letters to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III requesting actions to streamline and expedite processing of name change requests on military discharge documentation for transgender veterans and to take steps to improve the military’s programs to provide legal representation to servicemembers who have survived sexual and domestic violence.

“Our transgender veterans have put their lives on the line for America. It’s shameful that we ask them to wait 18 months or even years to update their name on the military’s standard discharge form, which veterans need when they apply for employment,” Rep. Speier said. “If the DMV and Social Security Administration can update identification in weeks, the military should be able to as well. Further, while I am very proud to have helped create the special victims’ counsel program, it is clear to me that some services have implemented it more effectively than others. All military services must adopt independent chains of command and a minimum term length to ensure that these legal advocates can perform at peak effectiveness for survivors.”

"Individuals who are willing to put on the uniform of our country and risk their lives to defend our freedoms should be received with commendation, not prejudice. We must no longer permit harmful and discriminatory behavior against transgender service members," Sen. Gillibrand said. "Veterans who transition after leaving the service should be empowered to update their DD-214 with their correct legal name without delay or repercussions. I am urging swift implementation of these protections for name change requests so that every service member can obtain identification that aligns with their identity.”

Currently, the military services take as long as 18 months to update the name on Form DD-214, the standard military discharge documentation that is frequently requested by potential employers, government agencies, and others seeking to verify an individual’s record of military service. During this period, transgender veterans who have transitioned genders and legally changed their names are put in a situation where they may have to explain why their name on their discharge documentation does not match other identification, potentially subjecting them to discrimination and prejudice. The first letter from Rep. Speier and Sen. Gillibrand asks Sec. Austin to work with the military services to establish processes to ensure that these name change requests are processed in no longer than 90 days.

Special victims’ counsel (SVC), also referred to as victims’ legal counsel in the Navy and Marine Corps, are military attorneys who represent victims of sexual and domestic violence throughout the legal proceedings. This program has been well received by survivors, but one challenges is that, with terms as short as one year, and lengthy legal proceedings, many survivors must change counsel once or twice during their service. The second letter requests that Sec. Austin work with the services to ensure that SVCs and VLCs have a minimum term length of two years to increase continuity for survivors and to increase the level of experience and effectiveness of these crucial advocates. The letter also calls on the services to establish clearly independent supervisory chains for SVCs and VLCs to ensure there is no question about their ability to advocate vigorously for survivors.

The letters are attached to this press release below.