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Roe v. Department of Defense

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
947 F.3d 207 (2020)


The United States Air Force (USAF) discharged Richard Roe and Victor Voe (pseudonyms) (plaintiffs) for having completely managed HIV. Department of Defense (DoD) (defendant) and USAF policies allow servicemembers to continue service unless unfit to perform duties, but deployability is key in fitness determinations. HIV-positive members without progressive clinical illness or immunological deficiency remain deployable under DoD and USAF regulations. But 80 percent of all USAF deployments are to Central Command’s (CENTCOM’s) area of responsibility overseas—and CENTCOM policy prohibits deploying HIV-positive personnel without a waiver. That meant HIV-positive servicemembers were undeployable where most deploy. Therefore, the USAF discharged Roe and Voe as unfit despite excellent service records and their superiors wanting to retain them, as well as four other HIV-positive members. Roe and Voe sued in federal court and successfully obtained a preliminary injunction to remain on active duty pending resolution of the lawsuit. The injunction also prohibited DoD and USAF from discharging any other active-duty members because of limited deployability due to HIV. DoD appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wynn, J.)

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