Bil Browning

Collection Procedures Continue for DADT Servicemembers

Filed By Bil Browning | July 25, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Dan Choi, Don't Ask Don't Tell

While the administration might be touting the certification of DADT repeal last week, the ramifications are still being felt by service members who were discharged. Lt. Dan Choi shares his recent collection letter sent by pastdue.jpgDiversified Collection Services, Inc.

The debt collection firm is best known for incredibly awful customer service and shaking down college students for money owed for student loans. Numerous consumer affairs complaints have been filed against the company for dishonest business practices and unlawful collection procedures.

I tried to get an answer from the Department of Defense on whether the administration will instruct the government to stop these collection proceedings against service members discharged under DADT and if they refund any payments made by previously discharged soldiers. When I called the DOD Public Affairs officer the man who answered the phone sighed loudly and said, "Ugh" before telling me he would transfer me to a voice mail line where I could leave my opinion on the issue. When I said I was calling for a statement as a journalist, he told me it wasn't a legitimate question and I obviously wasn't a real journalist.

Choi (who's most recent letter is posted after the break) said over e-mail, "The president's liaison Brian Bond acknowledged receipt of my letter but I have not heard anything. The creditors and IRS have already sent me warnings and it seems likely the Veterans benefits (50% disability check) form my service and Iraq war disabilities will be cut off shortly. With interest accrued, the total comes to $3,251.77."

So I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say the answer, most likely, is "No."

dan-choi-collection-letter.jpg

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This is awful to acknowledge that a policy is discriminatory and has been for years, and then continue to enforce these debts. Discharged service members who have already paid should be reimbursed, and the debt collections should stop.

It is important that Bilerico readers get a full picture of what is going on here, and please allow me to help connect a few of the dots.

The injustice here, as I understand it, is that some discharged servicemembers are being charged in this manner and some, perhaps most, are not. Moreover, I have read that who gets charged and who doesn't is totally arbitrary. The military does not appreciate the very public criticisms of its foot-dragging and White House waffling that Lt. Choi has been generating, and this is their retribution. It is their way of saying, "Be careful how you futz with us, 'cause we've got ways of futzing back."

But it is not proper use of military resources and government power to do a seek-and-destroy mission on citizens that criticize unjust laws and generate pressure for the government not to take forever at correcting them. Some vets under DADT get honorable discharges and full benefits, sometimes even full retirements, while others that buck the system receive the "this is what you get for not being quiet and letting us do things our way" treatment. It is not proper for the government to give us the right to a redress of grievances, then harass and charge us penalties us when we exercise it.