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Veterans Benefits For Gay Ex-Troops

Cover image for podcast episode

Former Navy sailor Louis Miller stands on the deck of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier. Miller was kicked out of the Navy in 1992 for being gay.

LOUIS MILLER

Thousands of troops were expelled from military service for being gay before Congress changed the “don’t ask don’t tell” law in 2011. Though many still don't qualify for federal veterans benefits, they now can receive state benefits in New York, Colorado, and other states. Plus, keep that mask on: San Diego County will follow the state's lead and wait until June 15 lift any mask mandates. And...the County Board of Supervisors will discuss a plan this week to impose fees on new developments based on how much additional car travel they create.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, May 18th.

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States getting benefits to gay ex-troops

We’ll have more on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines….

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While the CDC may have lifted mask requirements for vaccinated people, San Diego County officials say they’re following the State’s lead in keeping mask mandates until June 15th – that’s the date set by Governor Gavin Newsom to lift all remaining covid-19 restrictions. Dr. Christian Ramers is an infectious disease specialist at family health centers of San Diego.

"Masks are now not something after june 15th that people are going to force you to wear but they are an incredibly effective tool at preventing transmission of this virus which is still around"

State officials want more people to get vaccinated in the next month before lifting mask mandates.

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The median price of an existing, single family home in San Diego county is now at about 825-thousand dollars. It was at 800-thousand a month ago, and a year ago, about 670-thousand. The spiking home prices are fueled by hot market conditions and a shortage of homes for sale, according to the California Association of Realtors.

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Just a little bit more of the May gray for today. Clouds and a light drizzle are expected in coastal areas and parts of the western valleys. Partly cloudy conditions are expected to roll in by the afternoon. It’ll be a little warmer today with highs in the 70’s coastal and inland, highs in the upper 90’s in the deserts.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Gay troops have been able to serve openly in the military since 2011, when the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed. But many who were expelled for being gay BEFORE the repeal still can’t get veterans benefits. Now, states are passing laws to partially address that issue.

Desiree Diorio reports for the American Homefront Project.

Advocates for LGBT service members estimate as many as 114,000 were discharged for being gay between World War 2 and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Some of them received other than honorable discharges, cutting off their access to state and federal veterans benefits.
Several states – like New York, New Jersey and Colorado -- have passed laws to restore state military benefits, and others are considering it.
Moreno_corrected TRT: 20
“This needs to be corrected at the federal level as well, but at least at the state level we were able to create this classification that if you are an LGBT veteran, and you received an ‘other than honorable’ discharge because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, then you deserve access to all of those state benefits.”
That’s Colorado Democratic state senator Dominick Moreno. He helped write a new law that restores state benefits like education opportunities and military burials.
But that still leaves major benefits - like full VA health care and the GI bill - out of reach. States cannot upgrade military discharges on their own.
Moreno_ultimately TRT: 11
“Ultimately, it's really a federal issue - particularly if people are seeking health care under TRICARE or if they're seeking all those other benefits - that needs to happen at the federal level.”
Congress has considered a federal version of the state bills several times. It would offer blanket discharge upgrades to most veterans who were kicked out just for being gay. But it hasn’t gone anywhere.
Jennifer Dane is with the Modern Military Association of America, an advocacy group for LGBTQ service members.
Dane_fighting TRT: 11
“We've been fighting this fight for a really long time. We put it in the National Defense Authorization Act every year, or at least try to, and then it gets to the Ways and Means Committee and it comes back usually that it's too expensive.”
In Colorado, legislators who voted against the law had other problems with extending state benefits to veterans with less than honorable discharges. Republican Representative Richard Holtorf [HOLE-terf] argued on the house floor that it would undercut discharge decisions the military has already made. And, rules are rules.
Holtorf_expectation TRT: 14
“The expectation for all service members is that you will follow general orders, you will follow command policy and command directives, you will follow the UCMJ as it is written at the time of the service.”
That argument doesn’t work for Ashton Stewart. He runs a program called SAGEVets, helping older LGBT veterans get access to benefits.
Stewart_hiding TRT: 7
“Legislators are hiding behind the integrity issue. It's because they don't want to address the issue that's really happening here, which is discrimination.”
Stewart helped craft New York’s Restoration of Honor law. He says as more states pass similar laws, he hopes it will pressure the federal government to make the same changes.
Navy veteran Louis Miller was kicked out for being gay in 1992. He says he didn’t try to upgrade his “other than honorable” discharge until recently.
Miller_battle TRT: 5
“I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I didn't try, because I knew I couldn't win.”
Now, Miller’s got one win - his application got one of the first approvals after New York’s law took effect last year.
Miller_bad TRT: 16
“They gave me a bad piece of paper, but you can't take away what I did there. That's inside of me. That's my honor. You can't take away my honor. What you took away was my recognition of it. The restoration of honor in New York state, that's what it does: it gives me some recognition.”
Miller says he’s always been proud of his service, and now he’s proud that New York State recognizes it, too.
I’m Desiree Diorio on Long Island.

And that was Desiree Diorio reporting from Long Island. This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Coming up.... A third maritime smuggling operation was discovered near Point Loma, County Supervisors are considering fees for projects that increase car travel, and new research shows climate models are getting things right. All of that and more next, just after the break.

Multiple agencies helped seize and process another panga boat full of people that ran aground near Point Loma on Monday morning.
KPBS’ Melissa Mae has more on the third maritime smuggling operation in less than a month.

The Border Patrol says at around 3:00 AM one of their agents spotted a panga-style boat off the coast of Point Loma near Sunset Cliffs.
They called in the Coast Guard to intercept the vehicle, but the boat operator ignored the Coast Guard’s request to stop and...
Shane Crottie.
“Unfortunately, got caught up in the shoreline and in the kelp.”
More agencies were called in to assist including the San Diego Lifeguards and the San Diego Harbor Police.
Shane Crottie, Border Patrol Agent
“Luckily, everybody was able to safely get out. This location is very close to where, just a couple weeks ago we had the maritime event that ended unfortunately with three deaths.
Border Patrol Agent Shane Crottie (Cuh-rauw-dee) says no one was hurt on this boat.
Shane Crottie
“There were 23 individuals on board, 20 Mexican Nationals and 3 Guatamalan Nationals. All were of ages between 19 and 59.”
Shane Crottie
“The United States Border Patrol took custody of the individuals after the Coast Guard brought them ashore. They will be taken to a nearby border patrol to be processed accordingly.”
Since October, over 150 maritime smuggling events have occurred along the San Diego coast.
Shane Crottie
“Due to the increase in the infrastructure here in San Diego sector specifically that has caused the smuggling organizations attempt more dangerous smuggling attempts.”
Crottie says many times, participants do not know the dangers of these operations.
“Seeing boats that are ill-equipped, not large enough to support the amount of people that are on board. No navigation lights, a lot of times we are seeing boats that lack safety gear such as flotation device.
The Border Patrol is currently testing new technologies to reduce these smuggling events.
Shane Crottie
“We’ll utilize our mobile surveillance systems and we’ll work closely with our state and local partners to continue to combat this threat.”
The operator of the vehicle has not been identified and the destination of the boat is still unknown. Melissa Mae KPBS News

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors this week will discuss a plan to impose fees on new developments based on how much additional car travel they create.
KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more on why it’s controversial.

AB: The point of the program is to incentivize growth in urban areas. If, for example, a new apartment building is in an area close to jobs and public transit, the fees would be lower or nonexistent. But if it's in a rural or car-dependent suburban area, the fees would be higher. Supervisor Joel Anderson says that would make new housing in his East County district prohibitively expensive.
JOEL ANDERSON
SAN DIEGO COUNTY SUPERVISOR
JA: We believe that people of color, we believe poor people, all should have an opportunity at homeownership. It's the American dream, and yet this policy, if mishandled, will deny that dream to all these people.
AB: Environmental groups largely support the plan, saying it's necessary to prevent sprawl and lower greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from cars and trucks.
BRENDA GARCIA MILLAN
CLIMATE ACTION CAMPAIGN
BGM: What we want is for our housing development to align with our transportation objectives and with our climate goals. And for that, we need to build smart.
AB: Revenue from the fees would go toward pedestrian, bicycle and public transit infrastructure. The supervisors will take up the proposal on Wednesday, though they're likely months away from a final vote on the plan's finer details. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

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Last June, The instagram account, Black in P-U-S-D, went viral after thousands of stories of racist experiences in the poway unified school district were posted. The page was created by sisters Nene and ekene okolo students, faculty, staff, and parents posted on the account with detailed experiences of racism at poway schools.

The sisters were recognized as local peacemaker honorees by the national conflict resolution center over the weekend.

“we were honestly really shocked when we received the award. we were doing it for the people and to really amplify voices of those who haven't been heard for so long.

The stories on the page prompted poway unified to make some changes, including adding ethnic studies and literature courses to the high school curriculum. The district also hired 13 new staff, including black teachers.

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New climate research, which was done mostly in San Diego, finds that a study of land temperatures during the last ice age confirms some widely held thoughts about climate change. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has details.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers analyzed ancient groundwater in order to determine how accurate climate models of the past are. Lead author Alan Seltzer says Radioactive carbon dating confirmed the age of the water.
“A huge amount of the land surface of our planet, like about a third of the land surface of our planet contains ancient water that fell down as rain or entered the subsurface as river runoff during the last ice age.”
Researchers studied water from around the world, including ancient water under Balboa Park. They measured dissolved noble gasses as a way to determine land temperatures during the last ice age. The findings reinforced the accuracy of similar studies of ocean temperatures. Scripps researcher Jeffery Severinhaus says that increases confidence in current climate prediction models.
“The most important thing that it tells us is that the models are actually on the right track and we can believe the models more than we used to be able to believer them.”
Those models predict how the climate will change as the amount of carbon in the air goes up. The findings are published in the current edition of the journal Nature.
Erik Anderson KPBS News

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego News Now

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.