“Nearly two dozen major provisions offered by Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, were adopted during consideration of the annual defense policy bill by the Armed Services Committee this week.”
Authorize a System of Military Court Protective Orders: Allowing military judges and magistrates to issue court protective orders compliant with the Violence Against Women Act. The new judicial orders provide better protection and enforceability for servicemembers and family members experiencing intimate partner violence.
Initiate a Sexual Assault Prosecution Pilot Program at the Military Service Academies: A 4-year test of a new Chief Prosecutor would demonstrate whether assigning charging decisions for sexual assault and other special victims’ crimes to an independent expert outside of the chain of command would increase the willingness of survivors to report and the ability of the military justice system to hold perpetrators accountable.
Establish a Special Inspector General for Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Armed Forces: A dedicated office to investigate underrepresentation of people of color among military officers and high-ranking enlisted servicemembers, racial disparities within the military justice system, and white supremacy among servicemembers.
Increase Representation of Women and People of Color in the Armed Services: The military would be required to establish specific goals to increase recruiting, accessions, and promotion of minorities and women, and to report to Congress on a plan to achieve these goals and their progress.
Address Bias by Anonymizing Candidates Before Military Promotion Boards: Redact all personally identifiable information, such as names and photographs, of servicemembers before promotion boards to remove the potential for conscious or unconscious bias.
Make Violent Extremism a Military Crime: A new article within the Uniform Code of Military Justice would bring greater consequences to servicemembers who perpetrate, plan, threaten, or conspire to commit violent acts with intent to intimidate or coerce a person or class of people, or the intent to impact government action or policy.
Track White Supremacy among Servicemembers: The military services would be required to improve tracking of white-supremacist and other extremist activity by servicemembers.
Establish a Military-Civilian Task Force on Domestic Violence: The task force would report to Congress with findings and recommendations to address intimate partner violence among servicemembers and military families, and DoD would be required to collect data on the prevalence of intimate partner violence.
Establish a Military-wide Safe-to-Report Policy: Clarify that servicemembers may report sexual assault without fear of being disciplined for related minor collateral misconduct such as drinking in the barracks.
Improve Coordination for Survivors of Sexual Trauma: Ensure a warm handoff for survivors when relocating between stations within the military or when separating from the military and transferring from service providers within DoD to resources within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Improve Oversight of Military Sexual Assault Investigations: Require DoD toreport to Congress all military sexual assault investigations that remain open more than 6 months along with the reasons for the delay.
Improve Oversight of Next Generation Body Armor: Require DoD to report on barriers to fielding next generation body armor that will provide better, gender-specific protection for military servicemembers.
Expand Child Care Options for Military Families: Address waiting lists, establish competitive pay for providers in high-cost areas, provide housing priority for military spouses that operate Family Care Centers, and expand the Financial Assistance Program to pay for in-home child care, such as by a nanny or au pair. Additionally, it requires 24-hour child care be provided on bases where servicemembers are required to work night shifts.
Improve Oversight of the Next Generation Interceptor Missile Defense Program: Require an independent cost estimate and two successful flight tests before buying.
Transparency of Contractor Ownership: Expand reporting requirements to identify the beneficial owner of contractors.
Strengthen Whistleblower Protections: Clarify that nondisclosure agreements do not prevent employees of government contractors and subcontractors from filing a whistleblower complaint.
Examine Equal Employment Opportunity: Require the Department of Defense to report on ways to improve the EEO process for DoD civilians.
Enact the Elijah Cummings Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination Act: Strengthen EEO protections and increase accountability for federal employees who are found to be responsible for discrimination.
Authorize Incentive Pay for Programming Proficiency: Develop a system to track coding language aptitude and proficiency by military servicemembers and DoD civilians and offer financial incentives for needed programming skills.
Investigate Suicide at Remote Military Installations: Require a Comptroller General report covering unique challenges of preventing suicide by military servicemembers and military family members at remote bases outside of the contiguous United States.
Examine Access to Contraception and Family Planning Education. Require DoD to issue a report on barriers experienced by servicemembers in accessing contraception and the status of implementation of new DoD requirements on reproductive health care, such as ensuring access to contraception for the full length of deployment.
“U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and I recently announced that we will offer the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act as an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. The Military Justice Improvement Act would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision over whether to prosecute them to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors.
Despite years of Congressional reforms, thousands of service members are raped and sexually assaulted every year. In many of those cases, the assailant is someone in the survivor’s own chain of command. Only a small fraction of the perpetrators are ever held accountable for their violent crimes. Last year, the Department of Defense announced a record number of sexual assaults reported by or against service members, and yet, less than 10 percent of cases considered for command action ever proceeded to trial. Worse yet, despite repeated efforts to stamp out the scourge of retaliation against military sexual assault survivors, the most recent Pentagon survey found that 64 percent of survivors say they have experienced some form of retaliation for reporting the crime. That figure is statistically unchanged from 2016.”
I cannot in good conscience remain silent about the treatment of our wounded and injured service members and their families. I am writing this letter on behalf of my husband Sgt. Thomas Lee. He medically retired from the Delaware National Guard’s 153rd MP Company in August 21, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan January to September 2013. Upon returning from deployment he was sent to the Wounded Transition Battalion (WTB) at Fort Belvoir, VA in October 2013 for neck, back, shoulder, skin and stomach issues. The time frame for service members to spend at the WTB is approximately 12 months; my husband was there for 3 years. When my husband arrived, there were around 300 service members there. Every service member is assigned a nurse case manager who oversees the scheduling of appointments and does weekly check-ins with them. The nurse case manager’s job is to support and facilitate the care of service members; however, often they are misleading and at times lying to get information which is used by the command against the service members. The WTB does not promote an atmosphere of healing but rather one of harassment and punishment, where they provide the bare minimum of care, distribute medications and focus on the symptoms rather than diagnose and treat the actual issues. The WTB along with Fort Belvoir Community Hospital has failed my husband along with countless other service members. Our service members and families sacrifice so much for our country and it is a shame to see how they get treated when they return from combat broken physically and mentally.
My husband and I lived through a nightmare for the past 3 years, he was fortunate enough to survive 2 deployments only to be permanently disabled by a military doctor here in the states. Do you know what it’s like to watch helplessly someone you love whose served their country go from injured to permanently damaged and not to be able to hold any one accountable? My husband came to the WTB with 2 careers, 21 years with the Postal Service and 18 years of military service, he left the WTB unable to return to either career. Below are the events that forever changed our lives.
Army Pfc. Kai Yancey, 26, died at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas after complications from a short illness on January 1, 2017. Pfc. Yancey’s home of record was listed as El Paso, Texas; he entered active-duty military service in February 2015 as a motor transport operator. Pfc. Yancey was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood since 2016.
“He was a member of East Side Church of Christ, where he was a past member of the Youth Group and enjoyed watching movies, skate boarding, wrestling, boxing, water skiing, para-sailing and target shooting. He was a past member of the Warren Boxing Association, where he was the Undefeated Lightweight Champion and a 2009 graduate of Howland High School, where he excelled in wrestling. He married Janelle March 16, 2016.” –Obituary
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SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves (2014)
Honoring SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves, who became ill while en-route from Kuwait and then died unexpectedly shortly thereafter at a hospital in Rockford, Illinois on September 13, 2014. Apparently the commercial plane needed fuel and/or had to do an emergency landing for Virginia in Rockford, Illinois. It appears that they were on their way to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. According to reports, Caballero was a Reservist stationed with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital, 330th Medical Brigade out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin but trained at Fort McCoy prior to her deployment to Kuwait. She served in Kuwait for roughly eight months and for some reason was coming home a month early with a high ranking travel companion. Media reports claim she wanted to surprise her family in Texas. It is believed Caballero suffered from a blood clot which was exacerbated with the altitude on the flight. She was not listed as a non-combat death by the Department of Defense but this would in fact be considered a non-combat death due to medical. The family admits in newspaper articles that a lot of the details are sketchy.
Here are the questions we have after combing through the below articles. Why was she coming home a month early accompanied by a high ranking travel companion if she was going to surprise her family? Did something happen in country prior to her boarding that plane? Was this an early surprise for family in Texas or an expedited transfer from Kuwait back to the states? The military isn’t in the business of assigning high ranking travel companions unless there is an issue. Were there any concerns about medical health prior to boarding the plane? Where were they flying to? Rockford, Illinois is only a couple hour drive from Fort McCoy. Why did they not land the plane sooner at a larger airport like Chicago when the medical issues began to develop or the fuel began to get low? Why did the DoD not send out an official notification of non-combat death considering she was on active duty orders in support of war efforts in Kuwait? Criminal Investigation Division (CID) was assigned to investigate the cause of death of Virginia. The family was asked to submit a FOIA request for the results of the investigation.
Air National Guard Master Sgt. David Poirier, 52, died from a non-combat related incident on February 28, 2014. There was no location noted in the DoD press release but MSgt. Poirier was assigned to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar at the time of his passing. According to Sea Coast Online, MSgt. Poirier was deployed to Southwest Asia when his death occurred but the Air National Guard was not able to release the country due to host nation sensitivities. MSgt. Poirier was a post master from North Smithfield, Rhode Island. MSgt. Poirier was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom on behalf of the 157th Operations Support Squadron at Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire. On March 5, 2014, news reports indicated that MSgt. Poirier died of a heart attack while serving overseas.
Air Force SSgt. Samuel Davis, 33, died at his off base home in Alaska on February 23, 2014. According to his family, he died from complications after a back surgery. SSgt. Davis was assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in 2011 where he worked as an aerospace maintenance craftsman with the 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Media reports indicate that SSgt. Davis was the fourth serviceman from JBER found dead this month: Army Sgt. Okan Cetinbag, February 11; SrA Katrina Jackson on February 15; and SSgt. Darian Miller on February 18.