Previously, such service members only received half of their “separation pay,” given to ease personnel back into civilian life. All service members are entitled to separation pay if they’ve been involuntarily and honorably discharged after serving at least six years.
The policy changed came about from a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Mexico on behalf of 181 former service members. The policy of cutting the payout was not part of official DADT policy, so it was still in effect when DADT was repealed.
“There was absolutely no need to subject these service members to a double dose of discrimination by removing them from the armed forces in the first place, and then denying them this small benefit to ease the transition to civilian life,” said attorney Laura Schauer Ives. “This decision represents a long-delayed justice to these veterans.”
All told, the total amount withheld from the 181 veterans is about $2.4 million. Unfortunately, because of the statute of limitations, only those discharged after November 10, 2004, will be covered by the settlement.
Former Air Force staff sergeant Richard Collins, the lead plaintiff in the case, was drummed out of the military after a co-worker saw him kissing his boyfriend. He’ll always remember that injustice, but Collins believes the settlement is righting an old wrong.
“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,” he says. “We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.”