WASHINGTON — People discharged from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" since November 10, 2004 who had only received one-half separation pay following their discharge but who otherwise would have received full pay now will be entitled to that full separation pay, according to the terms of a settlement agreement reached Monday between the American Civil Liberties Union and the federal government.
"It makes no sense to continue to penalize service members who were discharged under a discriminatory statute that has already been repealed. 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," said Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, in a statement.
Richard Collins, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force who served for nine years before being discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," was the lead plaintiff in the case, which was brought as a class-action lawsuit — entitling all members of the class to the same treatment.
"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. We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans," Collins said.
The case impacts approximately 181 honorably discharged veterans who had their separation pay cut in half because of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, according to the ACLU. In order to be eligible for full separation pay, a servicemember has to have served at least six years.