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The federal government has agreed to pay $2.4 million to dozens of gay troops who were discharged and denied full separation pay under the pre-2011 "don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to a new court settlement.
The class-action lawsuit was spearheaded by the American Civil Liberties Union and filed in 2010 on behalf of about 181 gay troops who were honorably discharged for violating the military's ban on gays serving openly in uniform.
The government agreed to provide full back pay, or an average of about $14,000 per former service member, according to the settlement announced by the ACLU.
Service members typically are entitled to separation pay when leaving the military. For example, someone separating at the pay grade of E-5 after six years of service would be entitled to about $19,000 cash.
For years, however, the Pentagon maintained a policy of granting only half the standard separation pay amount for troops who were honorably discharged for being open about their sexual orientation.
Among the plaintiffs was Richard Collins, a former staff sergeant in the Air Force who served for nine years until he was discharged in 2006 under "don't ask, don't tell."
"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 in an ACLU statement.
Collins was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., when a co-worker saw him kissing his boyfriend in their car while stopped at an off-base intersection.
According to the settlement, the government will directly contact all troops affected by the lawsuit. Only troops discharged since 2004 are eligible due to the statute of limitations on civil claims.