Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced the Justice for Women Veterans Act, which would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the involuntary discharges of women from the Armed Forces between 1951 and 1976. The study would identify any irregularities in discharges that may have left these women without the veterans’ benefits that they earned. The study would also make recommendations to restore those benefits.
“Despite their great skill, sacrifice, and commitment to defending our nation, women veterans have faced a long history of structural inequities both in the military and at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “As the Chairwoman of the Women Veterans Task Force, my goal is to identify disparities in access to care and benefits for women veterans and, where necessary, introduce, advocate for, and pass legislation that fixes those gaps. The unfair practice of discharging women from the military because they became pregnant or became a mother was not only wrong but it perpetuated a harmful cycle of gender prejudice. This bill is the first step in assessing the impact of this discriminatory practice against servicewomen and will provide recommendations on how to restore fairness for these women veterans.”
In 1951, President Truman signed Executive Order 10240, which granted the Armed Forces authority to involuntarily discharge a woman if she became pregnant, gave birth to a child, or became a parent by adoption or as a stepparent. In response, the Armed Forces systematically discharged thousands of women who became pregnant, regardless of whether the pregnancy was planned, unplanned, or the result of sexual violence. Further, the federal government did not provide separation benefits, counseling, or assistance to these women, who were involuntarily discharged.
Between 1951 and 1976, thousands of women serving our country in uniform were summarily dismissed under this discriminatory policy. In 1976, the policy was finally rescinded after it was ruled as unconstitutional by a Federal court.
This bill would require GAO to conduct a study of women who were involuntarily discharged from the Armed Forces due to pregnancy or parenthood during the period of 1951 to 1976, in order to identify the scope of the impact of the policy, including disproportionate impact by race and ethnicity.
Read the full text of the bill, here.