By Lorra B.
The new ‘Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative’ is a new program the Justice Department is instituting to help address issues of unemployment, financial safeguards, voting rights and employment protections that our troops are facing.
Acting Associate Attorney General, Stuart Delery, stated, “We have brought significant enforcement cases and expect more to come.”
According to Navy Times, Justice Officials have “recently:
• Settled a lawsuit for almost $10 million in relief against a company that allegedly repossessed the cars of more than 1,100 troops.
• Obtained relief for 138 Missouri National Guard dual-status technicians who were allegedly illegally required to leave their civilian positions before being called to Active Guard Reserve status.
• Recovered over $123 million for service members who were the victims of alleged illegal non-judicial foreclosures.”
The focus of this initiative will be on the education and access to justice for service members. “Officials will also focus on the unique needs of troops and veterans in the criminal justice system—for example, recognizing that some veterans accused of crimes are also struggling with post-traumatic stress, substance abuse or other mental health problems connected to their military experience.”
Officials will be working with military attorneys and U.S. attorneys to increase the efforts already being made. In this effort to support troops facing justice and criminal situations, grants and other resources for things such as law enforcement and court will be implemented to help in civil and criminal justice.
Three Justice Department attorneys will lead this initiative, Director “Silas Darden, an Air Force Reserve major, and two assistant directors: Spencer Fisher, a Marine Corps Reserve chief warrant officer, and Andrew Braniff, who works in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act program.”
Pro bono legal support to veterans and military members is a goal the Officials will work to achieve and are seeking out more attorneys who are willing to volunteer their services and will be working with Veteran affairs as well as the Defense Department to educate veterans, troops and their families about their rights.
Director of the Service Members Law Center at the Reserve Officers Association, retired Navy Capt. Sam Wright, stated, “There’s plenty of work to do in all three of these areas (employment rights, voting rights and financial protections). Whether it’s the Department of Justice, or U.S. attorney’s offices, if they’re going to take it seriously and move on it — and it sounds like they are — I think that’s great.”