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Topics In the News
Servicemembers Discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to Receive Full Separation Pay
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 01/07/13
Last updated on: 01/08/13
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According to a settlement agreement between the ACLU and the federal government announced on January 7, 2013, servicemembers discharged under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy after November 10, 2004 will receive full separation pay on the same basis as other honorably discharged servicemembers.

The agreement settles a suit filed by the ACLU challenging the Department of Defense policy that paid servicemembers honorably discharged for "homosexuality" under DADT only half the separation pay accorded servicemembers honorably discharged for other reasons. Separation pay is offered to servicembers who have served at least six years but have been involuntarily honorably discharged. The pay is intended to ease the transition into civilian life.

The agreement covers some 200 servicemembers discharged after 2004. The thousands discharged under DADT between 1993 and 2004 are not covered because of the statute of limitations.

It is believed that the average payout for a discharged servicemember will be $13,000.

The settlement comes in a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the ACLU of New Mexico in 2010 challenging the disparate treatment of gay and lesbian servicemembers under the separation pay policy, which was not covered in the statute that repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Richard Collins, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force who served for nine years until he was discharged under DADT. Collins was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico before being seen by a co-worker exchanging a kiss with his boyfriend in their car while stopped at an intersection off-base.

"This means so much to those of us who dedicated ourselves to the military, only to be forced out against our will for being who we are," Collins said in the ACLU press release announcing the settlement. "We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans."

Under the settlement, all service members covered by the lawsuit will be contacted by the government and notified that they are eligible to opt in to the settlement and receive 100 percent of the separation pay that they would have received had they been discharged for any other honorable reason.

The settlement covers service members who were discharged on or after November 10, 2004, which is as far back as the settlement could extend under the applicable statute of limitations.

"It makes no sense to continue to penalize service members who were discharged under a discriminatory statute that has already been repealed," said Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. "The amount of the pay owed to these veterans is small by military standards, but is hugely significant in acknowledging their service to their country."

The video below, from November 2010 when the lawsuit was filed, explains the litigation.

More information about the settlement may be found here.

The settlement agreement itself may be read below.


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