Veterans Day is a time to honor all those who served our country and remember their service and commitment. All around the country there will be events and ceremonies throughout the day, a wonderful showing of our collective gratitude for the men and women who wear the uniform and serve the country. But this Veterans Day – the first following the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) – we should stop and take a brief moment to mention the veterans who still are not being given the fair treatment and full recognition that they deserve.
While gay and lesbian soldiers are now able to serve openly in the military, many veterans who were discharged under the discriminatory DADT policy are still not being treated equally. Service members who serve at least six years in the military and are then discharged involuntarily are entitled to separation pay to help ease them in their transition back to civilian life. However, the Defense Department has an internal policy – one that is not required by statute – that cuts separation pay in half for a soldier who was discharged for “homosexuality.” If you thought the repeal of DADT would end this absurdity, think again.
About a year ago, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of 143 soldiers whose separation pay had been cut in half for this very reason. In May, the government tried to get the case dismissed outright, but thankfully the courts did not agree, and last month the government’s request was officially denied. This means these brave soldiers will indeed get their day in court, though for now they must continue to wait, still without the full recognition they so clearly deserve.
So this Veterans Day, while we rightly celebrate the courage and sacrifice of our many brave soldiers, let’s not forget those who are still being treated unfairly. Their bravery was no less valiant, yet the government is still treating them as if their service was somehow less deserving of our acknowledgment and respect. Hopefully next year, when we pause to remember the service of all our veterans, we can look back and say that the discriminatory legacy of DADT has been fully extinguished. But for now, the last lingering effects still carry on.