Thousands of Vets Missing Out on Key Benefits; Sesame Street Tackles Racism; and More

Thousands of veterans with “less-than-honorable” discharges missing out on government benefits; facing unnecessary challenges in employment.

Being dishonorably discharged from the military can wreak havoc on a veteran’s career. Whether it was the result of alcohol or drug abuse, insubordination, fighting or being LGBTQ+ or disabled (areas that were not always protected and led to thousands of discharges in the past), leaving the military under “less-than-honorable” reasons can rob an individual of government benefits, health care and can drastically impact chances of employment. The 2017 Fairness for Veterans Act was supposed to help solve the problem by allowing military officials to review a veteran’s medical record and access whether mental illness or injury led to their discharge. If medical issues are found to be a contributing factor to the discharge, the dishonorable discharge can then be reversed, restoring the individual’s access to all those missing benefits. Stars and Stripes reports that since the bill was passed, more than 1,500 veterans have been able to upgrade their discharge. But according to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who introduced the bill in the Senate, that number could be much higher: “I think a lot of veterans with less-than-honorable discharges are suffering from PTSD and simply do not know that there is a way to have that discharge evaluated,” he told the military news site. “You could be talking about thousands of vets.”


U.S. suffers largest number of transgender murders since tracking began.

With the tragic shooting of Felycya Harris on Oct. 5, NBC News reports that the U.S. has reached a grim milestone — 31 deaths of transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals. That’s the highest number of transgender deaths to occur in a single year since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking totals in 2013. The number may be even higher, the group warns, since many deaths and disappearances in the transgender community are never officially reported or recorded. Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, told NBC the pandemic could be contributing to the death rate, since individuals may be forced to quarantine or lockdown in settings where they aren’t fully protected, putting them at greater risk of violence from people they know. “But we are also at an extremely vitriolic period, where hate is fueled even from our nation’s highest office,” Cooper said. 


Sesame Street confronts racism head-on in new special. 

Sesame Street has always been a powerful promoter of equality and inclusion, and a new special airing Oct. 15 on HBO Max and PBS promises to further that vital goal. The 30-minute program, “The Power of We,” consists of a series of sketches and songs structured similarly to a Zoom call, NBC News reports. Highlights of the broadcast include a Black Muppet who continues dressing up as his favorite superhero even after a white Muppet tells him he can’t “because all superheroes are white,” and the popular character Elmo embracing his red fur (even when other Muppets look different) because he is proud of who he is. In a statement, Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice president of creative and production at Sesame Workshop, explained the dire need for the special, especially in today’s volatile cultural climate: “We believe that this moment calls for a direct discussion about racism,” she says. “[We want] to help children grasp the issues and teach them that they are never too young to be ‘upstanders’ for themselves, one another and their communities.”


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