Too Late to Save Careers of Choi and Fehrenbach?

The US Senate held confirmation hearings today for Dr. Clifford Stanley, nominatee for the position of Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. This is important to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) watchers because that officer usually deals with DADT cases. We’d hoped to get a glimpse at the Obama Administration’s handling of the theoretical repeal of the discriminatory law.

From my count, we got two indications from today’s hearing.

Sen. John McCain’s opening remarks include the statement that “this policy has worked successfully in my view.” (via Kerry Eleveld’s twitter stream) I would hardly call Sen. McCain moderate, especially considering his unabashedly anti-gay statements during last year’s failed campaign for the presidency, but it’s still disheartening to hear such nonsense go unchallenged.

More troublesome, though, is Dr. Stanley’s response to a question from Sen. Roland Burris of Illinois about what happens to current DADT investigations if DADT is repealed. Stanley’s answer was, “if there are pending cases, they would fall under the existing statute. That’s about all I can say about that at this time.” (again from Kerry Eleveld’s coverage)

We had hoped, or at least I had hoped, that DADT’s repeal would end the destruction of honorable servicemembers’ lives. That doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not according to the testimony of this candidate.

Lt. Choi and Lt. Col. Fehrenbach
Lt. Choi and Lt. Col. Fehrenbach

Based on this testimony I have to wonder: Is it too late? Should current DADT victims give up their personal fights for justice to save their veterans benefits? It might be too late to save their careers, but can they save their futures?

Lt. Dan Choi came home from an extended tour of duty in Iraq with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If he gets a less-than-honorable discharge (which is guaranteed if he fights his firing), he will lose his veteran health benefits and, at least to my understanding, his PTSD would be used as a preexisting condition to deny coverage from health insurance companies.

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach is now about a year away from his 20-year retirement date. Remember, if he continues to fight for justice, he will lose retirement funds of $46,000 per year for the rest of his life, all of the lifetime veteran health benefits he has earned, and $80,000 in separation pay.

All this because the cases came a year before congress had the courage to act.

Is this how America treats its veterans? Is it really?