WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts State Senate unanimously adopted an amendment filed by Senator John Velis of Westfield that would make LGBTQ veterans discharged under the now-repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy eligible for veteran benefits from the state.

According to the news release sent to 22News, the Department of Defense’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy barred openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from the military from 1994 until 2011. During the 17 years that the policy was in effect, more than 14,000 members were forced out of the military.

“For far too long, thousands of courageous individuals have been told that they are not worthy of the same benefits that their comrades and counterparts earned. That their service and their sacrifice are not worth the same. All because of who they are and who they love,” said Senator Velis, who is Chair of the Veterans & Federal Affairs Committee. “The years of trauma, abuse, and harassment caused by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell cannot be undone. But we must do everything in our power to ensure that LGBTQ Veterans across the Commonwealth have the same access to benefits and services that other Veterans have.”

“LGBTQ Veterans that were discharged under the now-defunct, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, served their country proudly and are every bit as entitled to state Veteran benefits as any other service member. We are grateful to Senator Velis for his recognition of their service and his leadership in ensuring that their sacrifice will be honored by restoring the benefits that they rightfully earned,” said Tanya Neslusan, Executive Director of MassEquality.

This past fall, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issued new guidance that Veterans discharged under the policy are eligible for federal benefits