A press release by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Tuesday reveals that the Army has agreed to recognize the name changes of two transgender military veterans.
Both letters sent to the ACLU on behalf of transgendered veterans Nicolas and Jennifer show that although the Army Board for Correction of Military Records moved to deny the name change application, Catherine C. Mitrano, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Army Review Boards, interfered to render the application successful. T
he ACLU received the letters directed to the New Jersey veterans on November 24. Nicolas had served for nine years as a New Jersey National Guardsman, and Jennifer was a Sergeant Major in the Army for 29 years.
“This small change in a personnel document means a huge change for veterans like me,” said Nicolas, after hearing the news that the appeal was successful. It will take the Army several months to process the update.
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The names were changed on the DD-214 form, which is the document used to prove veteran status. Usually applications are denied, since maintaining the historical accuracy of military records has been a noted priority for the Army.
The ACLU, on the other hand, has argued that denying applications is blatant discrimination. According to the civil rights organization, the board must change names upon application, or otherwise stand accused of perpetuating injustice. In May, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel noted that the policy to prevent the transgendered from actively serving in the military should be “continually reviewed,” according to ABC News. This most recent decision from the Deputy Assistant Secretary will further increase pressure on the military to re-evaluate the ban.
“With this decision, the U.S. Army has recognized the importance of reflecting service members’ true identities accurately, and we’re grateful that the deputy assistant secretary chose to reexamine the approach the Army Review Boards had taken for too long,” said ACLU-NJ Deputy Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero. “We hope this action signals a new direction for the Army, if not all branches of the military, and indicates a new sensitivity to the barriers faced by transgender veterans.”
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