CALIFORNIA -

A local veteran is set to testify at a state hearing today in support of a bill involving LGBT veterans. 

The idea for AB 1565 was brought to State Assemblymember Manuel Pérez by local Veterans for Peace Coachella Valley chapter leader Tom Swann.

"California is the state with the largest LGBT veteran population, yet these veterans do not access their military benefits and health care services at the same rate as their heterosexual counterparts," said Pérez. "There are many reasons why this happens but fundamentally it's the legacy of past discriminatory policies.  For older veterans who served in the decades prior to and during 'Don't Ask Don't Tell', there is a lot of fear and distrust."

AB 1565 authorizes a grant program to support culturally competent outreach to older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender veterans to help facilitate access to their earned military benefits and health services that are provided through County Veterans Service Offices.

According to a survey conducted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, out of the people they serve, 22 percent or 681 individuals are LGBT veterans, and out of those, only 4 percent were receiving their earned benefits.     

The result of this gap is that LGBT veterans go without adequate care, which has serious health implications for the identification and treatment of disease, particularly as the population ages.

The hearing will be webcast live before the Senate Appropriations Committee.