Lt. Dan Choi: Government Billed Me After Kicking Me Out Under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Do tell, do pay?
Lt. Dan Choi, the feature of our October cover story, released an open letter to President Obama this morning. In it, he's rather upset about being charged money for being kicked out of the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"Today I received a $2,500 bill from your Defense Department Finance and Debt Services. Specifically, you claim payment for 'the unearned portion‚ of my Army contract,'" Choi writes to the President. It seems that the Department of Defense has found that Choi's "telling" under Don't Ask, Don't Tell got him kicked out of the military, and therefore he must pay out the portion of an enlistment bonus representing the time he did not serve. (Because they'd kicked him out for being openly gay.)
While Choi writes that "It would be easy to pay the $2500 bill and be swiftly done with this diseased chapter of my life," he ends the letter defiantly saying "I refuse to pay your claim."
A cover letter notifying Choi of his debt is from the Defense Accounting Finance Service, which describes itself as the "Department of Defense activity responsible for the collection of individual debts." It is attached to a bill for $2,519.18, which includes $2,502.09 (for the "recoupment -- required for the unearned portion of your enlistment or reenlistment bonus," plus administrative fees and interest.)
The military, apparently, doesn't just let you go when they kick you out; they want a chunk of your enlistment bonus back. Like an overdue utility bill, Choi is sternly warned that if he doesn't pay within 30 days, the charge may be sent to a collection agency.
"To move forward in my own life I have finally sought treatment for Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Insomnia, and Depressive Disorder from the Veterans Affairs Department. But I still find myself on a domestic battlefield for basic dignity as an American citizen. I know I am not alone in this fight because of the desperate cries for help I get from discharged, unemployed, discriminated, and suicidal veterans. I have felt all of their same pains personally. Today I also witness the disgrace of a country that perpetually discovers methods to punish its own citizens for taking a moral stand."