In 2012, during a panel on transgender military issues convened by my organization, The LGBT Bar, HuffingtonPost reporter Jennifer Bendery asked the legal experts we had convened for the day a simple, but important, question: If they could make one change for transgender veterans, what would it be?
The answer was clear.
“Bridget Wilson, an attorney who has represented transgender people in military and civil matters for 20 years, said if there’s one thing she sees over and over again with her clients, it is complications stemming from their DD214 form, better known as the document that soldiers receive upon retirement or discharge from the military,” Bendery reported.
“You have to produce it for almost everything you do in life,” Wilson told HuffingtonPost, noting that the form is used in everything from seeking a home loan, to applying for a job and even as an identity document for taking the bar exam.
In short, Form DD214 is a form of identification that follows a veteran from the end of their service to, quite literally, the end of their life. (It is what determines the name that appears on grave markers in military cemeteries.) So having a document on which your name doesn’t match the name on your other documents – and doesn’t comport with your outward appearance in many cases – can be problematic, and lead to discrimination in nearly every aspect for a veteran’s life.
Now, all that has changed.