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Oregon's New LGBT Veterans Coordinator First of a Kind

Nathaniel Boehme is the first LGBT Veterans Coordinator in the nation. (People Assisting the Homeless)
Nathaniel Boehme is the first LGBT Veterans Coordinator in the nation. (People Assisting the Homeless)
June 8, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs has taken an unprecedented step by hiring the nation's first LGBT Veterans Coordinator.

Nathaniel Boehme was hired in May and is training for the new position this month, which is also LGBT Pride Month.

Boehme says lawmakers originally proposed the position to help veterans who identify as LGBT and received less-than-honorable discharges under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy gain access to VA benefits.

"But it had changed to the creation of a position to work with these vets and work for the different agencies, both veterans serving and LGBTQ populations serving, to create the connections and create that outreach," says Boehme.

Oregon lawmakers, led by state Senator Sara Gelser of Corvallis, passed legislation creating the position in 2015.

Boehme will also be serving the aging veterans population, including veterans who served when people in the military rarely spoke about their sexuality or gender identity.

However, he says servicemen and women who identify as LGBTQ have always been part of the military.

"One of the interesting things I say to the local VSOs, the Veterans Services Officers, who typically work for the county, is, 'You may not know it, but chances are very, very likely that at some point during your tenure you have worked with someone who identifies with LGBTQ,'" he says.

Boehme, who is himself a veteran and gay, says he wants to make sure these veterans not only have access to VA benefits, but also feel accepted among other veterans.

"This role is going to entail so much more than just discharge upgrades because it's really creating again that culture of inclusion, and the idea that a vet is a vet, and if they served, they served, and that's what matters most," he says.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR