Lawsuit Claims 2 Airmen Were Discharged After Testing Positive For HIV

From right, a U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle aircraft assigned to the 131st Fighter Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard breaks away from an F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to the 154th Wing as the two aircraft line up for landing at Royal Malaysian Air Force base Butterworth, Malaysia, June 16, 2014, during Cope Taufan 2014
U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson

The Trump administration was accused in a federal lawsuit of violating the constitutional rights of two U.S. Air Force members by firing them after they tested positive for HIV.

A staff sergeant and a senior airman who received discharge notifications just before Thanksgiving had their appeals denied despite compliance with fitness assessments and medical treatment, as well as support from their commanding officers, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Alexandria, Va. They were diagnosed last year during regular screenings and are asymptomatic as a result of ongoing treatment, according to the complaint.

“These decisions should be based on science, not stigma,” their lawyer, Scott Schoettes, said in a statement. “There’s not a job in the world a person living with HIV cannot safely perform, including the job of soldier.”

The complaint is the latest challenge to Trump administration policies affecting the LGBT community, including a plan to ban transgender people from serving openly in the military.

HIV-positive Americans have long been barred from enlisting in the military. Service members who contract the virus that causes AIDS have generally been allowed to continue serving, though not overseas. In February, the military rolled out a readiness policy called “Deploy or Get Out!” It was amended in July, exempting HIV-positive service members. The lawsuit, which names Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, claims the Air Force is violating that exemption policy.

Defense Department spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

“For years, these policies have restricted the opportunities of service members with HIV,” the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal, which is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Now these same deployment restrictions are being used to justify” discharging service members based entirely on their HIV status, the group said.

The plaintiffs, both of whom have been stationed overseas, enlisted in 2011 and 2012, according to the complaint. They claim a violation of their constitutional right to equal protection. They are using pseudonyms to protect their medical privacy, according to the statement.


©2018 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Seven of the twelve Soldiers participating in the Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Level 2 course at Fort Indiantown Gap practice folding the flag April 25. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)

Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.

Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.

Read More Show Less

For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.

"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.

"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."

Read More Show Less

Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.

"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'

Read More Show Less

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.

Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.

Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.

Read More Show Less

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is warning that it's "absolutely a given" that ISIS will come back if the U.S. doesn't keep up pressure on the group, just one week after President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from northern Syria.

"It's in a situation of disarray right now. Obviously the Kurds are adapting to the Turkish attacks, and we'll have to see if they're able to maintain the fight against ISIS," Mattis said in an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," set to air on Sunday. "It's going to have an impact. The question is how much?"

Read More Show Less