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Richard Collins
American Civil Liberties Union has announced the settlement of its case, Collins vs. United States, a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of approximately 181 honorably discharged veterans against the Department of Defense first filed in October 2011.

At issue was a DOD regulation that was not a part of the "Don't ask, don't tell" legislation.

The regulation directed the DOD to cut the separation payout to gay and lesbian soldiers by fifty percent.

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. Federal law entitles service members to separation pay if they have been involuntarily and honorably discharged from the military after completing at least six years of service in order to help ease their transition to civilian life.

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.

Richard Collins is the lead plaintiff in the case, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force who served for nine years until he was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Collins was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico.

ACLU quotes Collins as saying, “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,” said Collins. “We gave all we had to our country, and just wanted the same dignity and respect for our service as any other veterans.”

It appears the ALCU got everything they initially asked for, full restoration of separation pay for all affected servicemembers.

Joshua Block, staff attorney for the ACLU says, “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sense to continue to penalize service members who were discharged under a discriminatory statute that has already been repealed.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.”

I never quite understood why the government didn't just settle this case long before the ACLU decided they had no choice but to go to court, after negotiations with the DOD failed. The DOD could have admitted no error, give these veterans the roughly $2M they were asking for and put the whole unpleasant chapter behind the country once and for all.

But better late than never.

It's good news to spread for its own sake. And also for the sake of eligible service men and women who the Department of Defense, for whatever reason, may not be able to contact to tell them they are in fact entitled to the full compensation they were promised when they initially joined the service.

Update: The Windy City Times is reporting the payout is expect to be about $2.4M. And The Hill says the average payout will be about $13,000, which in these times is a nice chunk of change for these veterans—that of course they earned.

Originally posted to Milk Men And Women on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 01:34 PM PST.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos, Angry Gays, and Daily Kos.

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