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Air Force screwing disabled vet out of $1M; 8 years still not paid

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trey Ward)
September 28, 2022

A disabled veteran who received a home foreclosure notice has waited over eight years for the U.S. Air Force to pay a more than $1 million settlement after a judge ruled the service illegally rescinded a job offer.

David P. Bighia, 61, sued the Air Force nearly a decade ago for employment discrimination after the service retracted a job offer to be a military historian at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, Click2Houston reported. The service claimed it rescinded the offer because physician comments indicated Bighia could not perform the job’s duties.

However, case documents show that Bighia only needed a few reasonable accommodations to perform his duties, and an administrative judge from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined the Air Force violated the 1973 Rehabilitation Act by denying Bighia the job.

The Air Force did not appeal the judge’s decision that it illegally rescinded the job offer; however, the service did appeal the $1 million settlement.

Bighia said the ordeal has taken a toll on his family and his health.

“My wife was extremely patient with me, as were my children … but yet you’re living with someone who’s under a tremendous amount of stress, and the outside forces against your household are incredible,” Bighia said. “It permeates every aspect of your life. … That underlying stress leeches onto your family members.”

Without the income from the Air Force job, Bighia has struggled financially and has had to file for bankruptcy.

“I don’t have a lot of debt, and I don’t want people to think I have a gambling problem or something like that because I don’t, I have house debt,” he added, noting that the bankruptcy was meant to delay foreclosure proceedings.  

Bighia served in the U.S. military for 16 years and was honorably discharged. While waiting for the Air Force to pay the damages, he has applied for more than 200 jobs.

“It puts you in a quandary, in a funk,” Bighia said. “You try to paint a good picture to the family and to the spouse: ‘Hey, I’ve got an interview,’ and ‘ooh I’ve got an offer,’ and then ‘oh, I’ve got nothin.’”

The Air Force offered Bighia another job in September as news of his case spread; however, he might not meet the standards required for the job’s security clearance now that his credit and financial history are damaged. Nearly 50 percent of all 2020 security clearances were rejected due to financial issues.

“It would be ironic, you know,” Bighia said. “You get the job, and you’re there in the office and you’re doing your work, and then you can’t even get an interim clearance because of the financial hardship that they’ve inflicted upon you over the years is now a disqualifying factor to do the job.”

Earlier this month, a video resurfaced of a U.S. Air Force colonel giving his advice to stop hiring middle-aged white people, especially “dudes.”

The video, originally taken in February, showed Col. Mark Wootan on a video teleconference call saying “The only real guidance I put out there for them is stop hiring middle-aged white people, especially dudes that are pilots.”