Re-enlistment uncertain for those discharged under DADT

by on September 5, 2011  •  In Military

The next wave of DADT-related litigation will be from those whom the military expelled. From today's N Y Times (excerpted):

…[M]any gay men and lesbians who were discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy say they want to rejoin the service, drawn by a life they miss or stable pay and benefits they could not find in civilian life.

By some estimates, hundreds of gay men and lesbians among the more than 13,000 who were discharged under the policy have contacted recruiters or advocacy groups saying they want to re-enlist after the policy is repealed on Sept. 20…

Though the Pentagon says it will welcome their applications, former service members discharged for homosexuality will not be granted special treatment. They will have to pass physical fitness tests and prove that they have skills the armed services need right now. Some will have aged to the point that they will need waivers to get back in.

Even if they pass those hurdles, there is no guarantee that they will go back to their former jobs or ranks. And because the armed services are beginning to shrink, some will be rejected because there are no available slots.

People discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” who wish to return to service “will be evaluated according to the same criteria and requirements applicable to all others seeking re-entry into the military,” said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “The services will continue to base accessions of prior-service members on the needs of the service and the skills and qualifications of the applicants.”

To be eligible for re-enlistment, former service members cannot have been discharged under “other than honorable conditions,” Ms. Lainez said. The majority of people released under the policy since 1993 — a significant number of them highly trained intelligence analysts and linguists — received honorable discharges.

As with all people who join the military, the reasons for wanting to rejoin vary widely. Some say they want to finish what they started, but on their own terms. Others point to the steady pay, good health care and retirement benefits. Still others talk idealistically about a desire to serve and be part of an enterprise larger than themselves…

The issue of rank could discourage many from rejoining. Because there are fixed numbers of jobs or ratings in each of the armed services, some people might have to accept lower ranks to re-enlist. And those allowed to keep their former ranks will still find themselves lagging their onetime peers.

[Michael] Almy, 41, [Jase] Daniels and another former service member have filed a lawsuit asserting that they were unconstitutionally discharged and should be reinstated, presumably at their former ranks. A former major, Mr. Almy, who was deployed at least four times to the Middle East, was among the highest-ranking members removed under the ban.

But even advocates for gay and lesbian troops say it might not be practical for the military to adopt a blanket policy of allowing all service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” to return to their previous ranks.

“You have to think long and hard from a policy perspective whether you want to put somebody who’s been out 5 or 10 years back into the same billet just because an injustice was done,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, a gay rights advocacy group. Mr. Nicholson, 30, who was discharged in 2002, is considering going to law school and trying to become an officer…



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