Three years ago, the military ended the 18-year ban on gays serving openly in the military, a policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

It was an emotional milestone eagerly anticipated by gay rights activists around the country and watched around the world.

But today, despite significant gains, a host of challenges remain for LGBT service members and their families. They range from the denial of full veterans benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs if a couple lives in non-marriage equality state to medical regulations that continue to prevent transgender service members from openly serving, said David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Right’s Campaign  which has released a list of remaining problems for the anniversary.

When the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, most agencies across the federal government – including the Department of Defense – began recognizing all legally married same-sex couples, regardless of where they live.

But because of an inconsistency in the statute that regulates veterans’ benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs has only been fully recognizing married same-sex couples in states that have marriage equality, Stacy said.

“That means that legally married service members can receive the federal benefits they have earned from the Department of Defense, but if they don’t live in the right state, the Department of Veterans Affairs can treat them as legal strangers,” Stacy said.

The lack of access to these services and benefits can be painful, from the inability to access Veterans Administration home loans to being ineligible for survivor benefits if a spouse is killed in action.

Steven Rains last year lost his husband, Don Condit a veteran, to cancer that was linked to a chemical exposure while he was serving in Vietnam. They were married in California in 2008, and were together a total of 32 years.

But because he lives in Texas, a non-marriage equality state, he is currently being denied survivor benefits from the VA.

“The VA said that this was an Agent Orange disease and he was seeking treatment at a VA hospital,” said Rains, a in telephone interview from Fort Worth.  “I just turned 60 this year and I had to take off work when Don got sick. These benefits would be very helpful like they are to straight couples or anyone else who lives in a marriage equality state.”

The human rights group is also pushing for open service for transgender individuals.

“Our LGBT service members and veterans have sacrificed for our nation and served with honor, just like their counterparts,” Stacy said. “They and their families certainly deserve to be treated equally and fairly. There is still a lot to do.”