Union official says veteran groups need to be more inclusive of women, LGBT

An official from a veterans union group on Monday called the “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy repealed in 2011 “barbaric,” and said that veteran groups need to “retool” their priorities to be more inclusive of LGBT and female veterans.

“When we went off to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, one nobody thought we were going to be there as long as we have been for sure but nobody really took a look at the changing demographics of the veterans community,” Will Attig, who is an executive director of the Union Veterans Council, told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Jamal Simmons on “Rising.”

“We still had ‘don't ask, don't tell,’ which was a barbaric system that didn’t achieve anything,” Attig continued, referring to the law that prohibited LGBT Americans from openly serving in the military for decades. It was repealed in 2011 under the Obama administration.

The union official added that veteran organizations need to “retool” their focus to address the changing veteran population, especially when it comes to female service members.

He said the Union Veterans Council has already started taking steps to address the issue, such as creating more development and training programs for returning female military personnel. 

“At the Union Veteran’s Council, we’re working to create workforce development to focus in on our female veterans not for traditional jobs, we’re talking about construction, ironworker jobs,” he told Hill.TV. 

Even though the majority of veterans and active-duty service members are still men, women make up 9 percent of the veteran community, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. This number is expected to double by 2045.

An estimated one million veterans identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

An analysis by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that there are at least 134,000 transgender veterans alone. 

Transgender service members have openly serviced in the military since 2016, despite repeated efforts by President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE to renew the ban on transgender troops.

The Supreme Court allowed the administration in a 5-4 ruling this month to temporarily enforce its restrictions on transgender people serving in the military as the case continues to make its way through the legal system.

The Supreme Court’s decision does leave one nationwide injunction on Trump’s order in place. As a result, Pentagon officials said they cannot completely implement the new policy yet.

—Tess Bonn