Archive for June, 2013

Same-Sex Military Couples Among Winners in Supreme Court Case

Posted by Charlotte Webster

militaryauthority.com same-sex-military-couples-benefitsSame-sex military couples stand to be among the biggest winners in this morning’s historic Supreme Court decision. In a close 5-4 ruling, the Justices struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, ruling the Act unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 5th Amendment.

The ruling is important to military families because now that gay and lesbian troops are free to serve openly, and are free to marry others of the same sex, the ruling will most likely have a significant effect on the ability of same-sex military spouses to qualify for important benefits.

The Secretary of Defense – who had just yesterday celebrated the contributions of gay and lesbian servicemen and women at a Pentagon gay pride celebration – issued a statement today promising that gay couples would soon receive all the same benefits that other married couples have

“That is now the law, and it is the right thing to do,” said Secretary Hagel. 

While the military dropped the “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy that effectively prohibited gays to serve openly in the military without facing involuntary discharge, the Defense of Marriage Act prohibited the Defense Department from spending any money to provide benefits to any dependent spouses in same-sex marriages. For instance, while same-sex spouses could be named as beneficiaries on SGLI life insurance policies as can any other beneficiary, the DoD could not extend TRICARE medical benefits to same-sex spouse, nor were same-sex couples eligible to stay in post housing. Similarly, a same-sex marriage did not qualify the couple for the higher ‘Type II’ variant of Basic Allowance for Housing.

However, since the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, the path is now clear for the Defense Department to extend these benefits to married same-sex couples.

The decision was celebrated by gay rights advocates, and granted more lukewarm applause from some conservatives. However, the decision is certain to place additional strain on an already strained TRICARE system and personnel budget. Just last month, the Defense Department was staunchly advocating the need for a substantial fee increase to keep TRICARE afloat. The eventual costs of extending these benefits to same-sex spouses are not yet clear.

Further, it is not yet clear whether the DoD will impose a uniform standard for eligibility on same-sex spouses. Because only a few states recognize same sex marriages, gay and lesbian couples encounter practical difficulties in obtaining a marriage certificate that traditional couples don’t generally face. Last year, the military got around that by allowing servicemembers and their partners to sign a ‘domestic partnership’ agreement – already in common use among civilian federal employees. Same-sex partners of federal employees have long been eligible for federal benefits, including health insurance, if they signed a declaration. It is not known yet if the DoD will allow same-sex partners to qualify for spousal benefits with a domestic partnership declaration – the general standard for federal civilian employees – or if the DoD will require a marriage certificate to grant these benefits. However, earlier this month, the DoD did get ahead of the Supreme Court decision and announce plans to issue dependent ID cards to same sex partners by September 1st of this year.

The Supreme Court decision to overrule the Defense of Marriage Act will likely have no direct effect on how VA benefits are disbursed. The specific wording of the statutes authorizing VA benefits specify spouses as being a ‘member of the opposite sex,’ which would preclude awarding benefits to same-sex couples on an equal basis with traditional couples. The Supreme Court did not address this aspect of the law. However, a bill making its way through Congress, the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, seeks to change that. The proposal initiated by Senator Kristen Gillebrand in the Senate and Representative Adam Smith of Washington – both Democrats on their respective chambers’ armed services committees.

Create a Personal Scorecard to Ease Transition

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com transition to civilian lifeIf you’re this guy, you have a pretty solid life plan going. You’ve reverse engineered your career, starting with your vision of successful retirement, and back-stepped your way toward where you are now. It’s highly probable that you have either physically or mentally documented every milestone along the way. Kudos to you, and you can stop reading this now and go read something VanSteenwyk wrote.

If you’re like the rest of us, you need a little help from time to time. One tool that gets results in both the professional and the personal world is the scorecard. The scorecard works because it prompts you to consider your decision-making criteria, set standards, and evaluate against your standards.

The scorecard method can help you weigh your options as you prepare to transition into the civilian world. For example, if you’re considering relocation from your current post, you might be interested in living in New York, Albuquerque, and LaJolla. Your scorecard might look like this: 

 

 

 NYC

 Albuquerque

 LaJolla

Cost of housing

   1

   2

   1

Job opportunities

   3

   2

   1

Friends/Family near

   1

   3

   1

Weather

   2

   2

   3

TOTAL

    7

    9

    6

 

In this scorecard, we’ve set four criteria for evaluation: housing, jobs, friends/family, and weather (you can set your own criteria). On a scale of 1-3, with one being poorest and three being best, we ranked each city based on those criteria. Cost of housing is highest in NY and LaJolla; it’s okay in Albuquerque. This example is a pretty simple one, but you can create your own and make it as complicated or simple as necessary.

You can weight the scorecards if you want to add an element of complexity. Using the same criteria and subjects from above, let’s look at how weighting can add value to your scorecard. 

 

 Weight

 NYC

 Albuquerque

 LaJolla

Cost of housing

   2

   2

   4

   2

Job opportunities

   4

   12

   8

   4

Friends/Family near

   3

   3

   9

   3

Weather

   1

   2

   2

   3

TOTAL

 

   19

   23

   12

 

First we ranked the criteria in order of importance – we thought job opportunities were most important, so we gave it our highest weight (4). Friends, housing cost, and weather followed (in that order). Then we went through our previous scores and multiplied them by their weight – the resulting number is our weighted score.

The beauty of the scorecard exercise is that it imposes a structure to your decision-making process, and structure is a good thing to have when you’re making life decisions. If you’re deciding whether or not go to back to school, scorecards definitely come in handy during the selection process – so does our school finder, which you can visit here or from the military authority web site. What other tools do you turn to help you with important choices? Let us know in the comments below.

A Shift in Mindset Can Help Military Spouse’s Employment Search

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com military spouse employment searchMarriage – whether military or civilian – is about cooperation. It’s hard work making a relationship between two unique people successful. And when one (or more) of those people are committed to a military career, it can feel like there’s a third person in the relationship at times. A military marriage often contains the needs and well being of three: the two spouses plus the nation.

Most military spouses are extremely proud of their career soldier, and share similar views of service, honor, duty, and integrity, whether or not they choose a military career for themselves. But what happens when the career aspirations of one spouse need to take a back seat to the other?

That’s not an uncommon situation in marriage. The vision of a 50-50 partnership might be a bit short-sighted, when you consider that, very likely, the single constant in any marriage is the love and commitment shared between the two people. Everything else – jobs, homes, hobbies, possessions, kids – changes.  Perhaps these few simple tips can help bring the military spouse some peace in their search for employment.

  1. Who you are is more important than what you do. Are you passionate about reading, or music? Do you have a passion for nutrition, or science, or serving others? Think about what you can contribute as opposed to whether your particular field has a set career path to follow (spoiler: most don’t). If you’re between jobs at the moment, just spending a little time doing something you enjoy – or even taking classes to learn about something you’re interested in – can help.
  2. You’re a professional. If you think of yourself as “an unemployed sales representative,” or “out-of-work aerobics instructor” guess what you’ll probably be? But if you shift your thoughts just a little bit, away from limiting job titles and toward what you want to do, that opens up your potential. For example, “sales rep” above might consider himself a “professional influencer.” The “aerobics instructor” might switch gears into “fitness professional.” This slight shift can help you make the leap from feeling like you’re being shuffled from job to job to realizing that you have knowledge and experience to give. Even if you have to wait tables a little while in a new town while you seek new opportunities, changing the way you think about your skills can make a huge difference.
  3. Remember why you’re here. It’s easy to get discouraged and bitter during a dry spell. Thinking of happier times, and remembering the excitement of the early days of your adventure will help the discomfort pass. Share your feelings with your spouse, friends or family, and remember that your service member also has days like this – you will carry each other through them.

Get more practical career advice and education tips for military spouses at militaryauthority.com.

The Five Most Useful Online Degrees for Transitioning Military

Posted by Kelli McKinney

militaryauthority.com useful online degrees for transitioning militaryThere’s no question that having a degree can open up job options for transitioning military members. But with the slew of degree options out there, how can service members tell which ones are the most relevant for today’s workplace? Plus, making the transition from military service to civilian life can be stressful enough without adding the added complication of going back to school.

Adding school to your work-life-transition mix can actually help simple things up, especially if you choose an online degree program. Online education programs offer flexibility, access to schools that might not be geographically easy to get to, and the ability to fit school into your life – not cram life around your school.

And if you choose one of these in-demand programs, you are signing up for a competitive edge, not just a piece of paper.

 

Bachelor’s in Business Administration

Why It’s Hot: Education Dynamics and Learning House’s recent study ranked business administration as the top online undergraduate degree program. Nearly one-third of all online students are studying business administration. Why? Because people want to understand the intricacies and theories of successful business, channel their inner entrepreneur and help improve our straggling economy.

What You Could Study: Business administration majors usually study operations management, economics, accounting, marketing, and organizational dynamics or structure, according to the College Board.

What You Can Do With It: A more appropriate question is “what can’t you do with it?” A wide variety of career paths open up in business and industry with a degree in business administration. Graduates can work in fields banking, finance, manufacturing, product development, human resources, and business analysis, all of which offer opportunities for advancement and professional development. 

Bonus: An online Masters in Business Administration is not only a terminal degree, just the act of completing it can give you the real life experience and understanding of what it means to lead a company while maintaining your personal life. That real-time work-life balance experience is priceless, and teaches you what it takes to take the business world by storm.

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Marketing manager: $122,720
Financial manager: $116,970
Management analyst: $87,260

 

Bachelor’s Degree in Education

Why it’s Hot: A second career in education is a viable, honorable, rewarding career for many vets, and studying online is an accommodating way to transition from service to civilian life.

What You Could Study: Online bachelor’s degrees in education teach students about instructional design, education theories and methods, and offer a combination of self-directed classwork with hands-on practice. Online communities also provide a convenient, fulfilling way to connect with other students and share ideas.

What You Can Do With It:  You can take what you’ve learned and experienced and help shape the next generations of students, contribute to education policy by getting involved in educators’ groups or educational administration. 

Bonus: The Department of Labor confirms that the route to a career as a public school teacher is a pretty straightforward path. You earn a bachelor’s degree from a teacher education program, and then pass a license exam.

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Elementary school teacher: $54,330
Middle school teacher: $54,880
High school teacher: $55,990

 

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Why It’s Hot: Technology changes each day. Nearly every company needs someone who understands it, can create it, wrangle it, or help other people use it. Plus –why study computer science offline? If you love technology, computers, and have a knack for both the creative and the technical, this is the field for you.

What You Could Study: Computer science majors study programming, web technologies, software design and theory, artificial intelligence, system analysis and digital systems.

What You Can Do With It: Network and computer systems administrators, application developers and software developers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Bonus: This is a high-growth field that the Department of Labor predicts will see almost 50 percent increase in wage-and-salary employment between now and 2018. 

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Computer and information systems manager: $123,280
Computer systems analyst: $81,250
Network and computer systems administrator: $72,200

 

Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources

Why it’s Hot:  Companies are made up of people – human beings – and organizations will always need people who understand organizational structure, group behavior, laws and technologies that support human resources.

What You Could Study:  The College Board reports that most human resources programs include coursework in staffing, employment law, performance management, organizational structure and behavior, personnel actions, and payroll management. 

Bonus: The business of human resources is increasingly reliant upon technology. An online degree program offers an opportunity to become adept at some of these technologies. 

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Training and development specialist: $57,280
Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialist: $59,590
Human resources manager: $108,600

 

Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Why it’s Popular: It’s human nature to be intrigued by the seedy underbelly of criminal activity. Plus, because human nature is not geographically limited, you could be taking classes with students from all over the world.

What You Could Study: Every aspect of crime, criminal behavior, the justice system, and the law. You could take courses in criminology, law enforcement, statistics and sociology.

What You Can Do With It: A criminal justice degree holder could work at the local, state, or federal level in law enforcement, the corrections system, homeland security, or immigration.

Bonus: The qualities that support a successful military career are also some of the same qualities that drive a successful career in law enforcement. You already know you have what it takes to succeed.

Potential Careers and Average Salaries:*
Police and sheriff’s patrol officer: $55,620
Detective and criminal investigator: $73,010
Probation officer and correctional treatment specialist: $51,240

*All career and average salary information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, May 2010 statistics. There could be variances depending upon the level of degree completed.

Ready to get started? Click below to find an online school that’s right for you.

 

Connecticut Man Charged With Scamming Veterans

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com man scams veteransA 66-year old Vietnam War veteran from Stafford, Connecticut has been charged with defrauding veterans and their families of thousands of dollars since 2009. According to prosecutors, John J. “Buzzy” Simon told several veterans or their family members that he would help them maximize their VA benefits or get other money from the government. Allegedly, Simon took a fee in advance for his services, but never provided any assistance or services to these families.

Prosecutors also assert that Simon falsely represented himself as a service officer with Disabled American Veterans.

Simon was charged with mail fraud, which carries a potential sentence of 20 years. He was released on a $50,000 bond. 

Maine Man Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison for Stealing VA Benefits

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com man steals va benefitsA Maine fisherman and clam-digger, Richard C. Ramsdell, has pled guilty to fraudulently obtaining disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is accused of having received up to $200,000 in benefits, though the 39-year-old’s brief service in the Marine Corps was not enough to render him eligible for VA benefits. A judged sentenced him to three years in prison.

According to court documents and local media, Ramsdell told VA officials that he had a debilitating back injury and was unable to work. Meanwhile, he was performing strenuous jobs as a fisherman, painter and clam-digger. He was also doing manual labor while imprisoned last year on a conviction for stealing copper from a Navy base.

According to Bangor Daily News, prosecutors had lined up a VA doctor to testify that Ramsdell would not have qualified for VA benefits – due to his very brief period of service – without providing false statements to the VA. The VA does not, apparently, independently verify disability applicant’s eligibility with the Department of Defense before giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.

Also, this week, a convicted sex offender was able to steal a National Guard NCO’s identity for years and obtain care from the VA medical facility at White River Junction, Vermont.

Meanwhile, calls have been mounting all spring for Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to step down. Concerned Veterans for America produced a 30-second commercial spot calling for his resignation or dismissal. Even the reliable Obama Administration ally, the New York Times, could not ignore the increasing criticism.

At issue, the stubborn backlog of unresolved VA benefits claims, which Ramsdell managed to get, but which seem to be nearly impossible to get for nearly everyone else.

The current backlog is over 600,000 claims – a number that as increased 2,000 percent since Shinseki, 70, took over in 2009. 70 percent of cases now take over 125 days – even including the most routine of reviews. Meanwhile, some VA centers serving urban areas are taking over 600 days to resolve claims.  

Opinion: Fight Sexual Predators in the Military – But Not with Junk Data

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Sexual Predators in the Military In January of 1993, a group called FAIR, or Fairness and Accuracy in Media ran a Superbowl ad drawing attention to the problem of domestic violence. All well and good. But in statements the group released to the press at the same time, they also told reporters that women’s abuse shelters reported a 40 percent increase in requests for help on or immediate after Superbowl Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sheila Kuehl, speaking at that time for the National Women’s Law Center, also told reporters that there was a 40 percent increase in reports of violence against women after the Superbowl, as well as after Redskins victories, in her local area. She was actually citing an earlier academic study, “The Impact of Professional Football Games Upon Violent Assaults on Women,” G. F. White, J. Katz, and K. E. Scarborough, Violence and Victims, vol. 7, no. 2, 1992.

Kuehl and FAIR believed that the Superbowl contributed to an environment of hyper- or übermasculinity. The combination of having a bunch of men over for testosterone-fueled bonding, alcohol, time off work, and women all led to an increase in abuse. One group even sent out mailers warning women not to stay at home with their husbands or boyfriends for the game.

It was one of those stories the media loves that’s just too good to check. Good Morning America, the Orlando Sentinel Tribune, the Boston Globe, the New York Times and the Hartford Courant all ran with the story. The Times even called the game “The Abuse Bowl.” Boston Globe’s reporter cited FAIR as her source for the 40 percent increase story. But the story was garbage from the beginning. Walter Ringle, a reporter for the Washington Post, tried to track down the numbers. A close look at the statistics revealed that the claims were baseless. There was no statistically significant increase in reports of domestic abuse during or immediately after the game that could not be explained by a holiday and an increased number of people off work. FAIR and the Women’s Legal Network were either lying or hopelessly misunderstood the statistics.

Nevertheless, even though the story has long since been debunked – with in days of its first appearance, a lie can go round the world twice before the truth has a chance to put on its boots. Some reporters are still falling for the bogus story. 

Christina Hoff Summers tells the story in more detail in her book, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women.

Similarly, Gloria Steinem once claimed that 150,000 to 200,000 women in America die of anorexia each year – a claim that is absurd on its face. The real number was about 100 in 1983, when she made the claim. But that didn’t stop Naomi Wolf from repeating the bogus stat in her own book, The Beauty Myth, nor Ann Flanders, nor a number of college textbooks and credulous media members. It’s not hard to find the stat unquestioningly cited today. But again, a number of media sources ran with it, because the story was too good to check. (After Sommers published Who Stole Feminism, FAIR pushed back against Sommers, who, in turn, responds to their criticisms here.)

Women’s advocacy organizations and their allies in politics and media have a long and rich history of leveraging dubious statistics, junk science and outright lies to advance their claims. “We’re not talking about a few errors, we’re not talking about occasional lapses; we’re talking about a body of egregiously false information at the heart of the domestic violence movement,” Hoff Sommers said of domestic violence statistics and claims in a 2011 speech. “False claims are pervasive. False claims are not the exception, they are the rule.”

The motivation, very often, is money. The more push-polling they can generate, and the more of a media frenzy they can create, the more funding they can generate for non-profit organizations that pay big salaries to women and reliable Democrat campaign donors.

So you’d think there’d be a little more circumspection on the part of policymakers and the media this time around.

No such luck.

It’s not an isolated instance of factual misstatement, says Hoff Somers. “We’re not talking about a few errors, we’re not talking about occasional lapses; we’re talking about a body of egregiously false information at the heart of the domestic violence movement. False claims are pervasive. False claims are not the exception, they are the rule.”

Fast-forward to today’s focus on sexual misconduct in the military. The media – us included – are happy to breathlessly repeat the military’s own data that say that 19,000 women in uniform last year were the victims of sexual assault. But if you look deeply into the data gathering mechanism, it’s not clear at all what the statistic measures. 

Last week, Senator Kristen Gillebrand (D-NY) took a page from the National Women’s Law Center – the same crew responsible for the junk Superbowl data referenced above argued that the DoD should strip unit commanders of their ability to prosecute sexual assaults and give it to special inquisitor lawyers, exclaimed that some commanders “can’t tell the difference between a rape and a smack on the ass.” 

I’ve never met such a commander or servicemember. But I have seen the surveys – and the fact is that it’s not commanders who can’t tell the difference: It’s the data gathering system itself. For example, a look at the most recent report to Congress on the state of sexual harassment and assault at the service academies reveals that there is nothing in the data to differentiate a rape from a smack on the ass. Both of them statistically qualify as sexual assaults. The service academies report itself states that “unwanted sexual contact is the survey term for the crimes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that constitute sexual assault, which range from rape to abusive sexual contact.”

Abusive sexual contact could be anything from an unwanted locker-room towel snap to a rape or attempted rape. Unfortunately, we aren’t seeing any kind of differentiation between the acts reflected in the data – but they all get conflated in breathless claims of tens of thousands of servicemembers – half of them men – being victimized. They are all reported the same. There is no mechanism in the data to tell one from the next. All get lumped in to generate the 19,000 women assaulted figure that gets run by the media. To believe it, you have to believe that a division’s worth of men gets sexually assaulted every year… and another division’s worth of women.

We don’t have to tolerate any of it, but the military, being led by the nose by some of the very same organizations such as the Women’s Law Center responsible for recklessly issuing bogus data in the past, is having trouble correctly defining the problem. If we cannot define the problem, and calibrate a response appropriate to towel snaps vs. unwanted shoulder rubs vs. sexual assault and rape, then we cannot adequately address it without causing a devastating witch hunt atmosphere within the military – and tipping the balance of power in favor of the small minority of people willing to file false claims. There were 444 allegations of sexual assault within the military in 2012 that were classified as “unfounded,” a 35 percent increase since 2009, according to reporting from the Washington Times. Some of these claims may simply have been unproveable or disbelieved by investigators, while others were fabricated outright. It is impossible to tell how many, though the experiences of the Duke University lacrosse team, falsely accused of rape and charged on trumped up premises by a corrupt prosecutor should give everyone pause – especially so in in a world where the percentage of false rape allegations range from 2-10 percent to as much as 41 percent of all forcible rape cases in this study.

Everyone agrees that sexual predators of all ranks should be drummed out of the service. Everyone agrees that those who commit crimes against servicemembers – or anyone else – should be put in jail. But unless the DoD does a better job of managing their data and analysis points, they run the risk of cracking down on 956 out of every five actual sexual predators.

Military Court Rules Obama Exerted “Unlawful Command Influence” in UCMJ Sexual Assault Trial

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

sexual assault UCMJ trial A U.S. Navy sailor accused of sexual assault and facing a UCMJ trial has prevailed in a motion to throw out the possibility of a dishonorable discharge, because his court martial was tainted by undue command influence by the President of the United States. A PDF of the ruling obtained by Stars & Stripes is available here.

According to the presiding judge, Marcus Fulton, the president’s problematic remarks were as follows: 

“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this. I expect consequences. So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

Why were these words problematic? Because there is nothing in the UCMJ that requires that someone found guilty of sexual assault be fired or dishonorably discharged. Court martial convening authorities are, by law, supposed to operate free of command influence. Appeals courts have already repeatedly held that it is unlawful for a commander to “send word” of a desired case outcome to the members of a court martial. This would be a violation of Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This article reads, in part: 

(a) No authority convening a general, special, or summary court-martial, nor any other commanding officer, may censure, reprimand, or admonish the court or any member, military judge, or counsel thereof, with respect to the findings or sentence adjudged by the court, or with respect to any other exercises of its or his functions in the conduct of the proceedings. No person subject to this chapter may attempt to coerce or, by any unauthorized means, influence the action of a court-martial or any other military tribunal or any member thereof, in reaching the findings or sentence in any case, or the action of any convening, approving, or reviewing authority with respect to his judicial acts. The foregoing provisions of the subsection shall not apply with respect to (1) general instructional or informational courses in military justice if such courses are designed solely for the purpose of instructing members of a command in the substantive and procedural aspects of courts-martial, or (2) to statements and instructions given in open court by the military judge, president of a special court-martial, or counsel.

While the president, as the civilian commander in chief of the Armed Forces, is not directly subject to the UCMJ, the judge in this case ruled that President Obama’s words constituted sufficient interference in the court martial proceedings that no sentence including a discharge could be trusted as free of undue influence.

The judge also referenced Congressional interference in the UCMJ process, pointing to an instance last month in which Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) blocked Air Force Lieutenant General Susan Helm’s promotion.

“As the senator works to change the military justice system to better protect survivors of sexual assault and hold perpetrators accountable, she wants to ensure that cases in which commanders overturned jury verdicts . . . are given the appropriate scrutiny,” said a spokesperson for Senator McCaskill to the Washington Post.

If this were done by members of the chain of command, this, too, would have been an unlawful violation of Article 37 of the UCMJ, which prohibits those covered by the UCMJ from using an officer’s conduct or decisions while a member of a UCMJ court martial against him or her in officer evaluations or promotion consideration. Again, this is to insulate UCMJ proceedings from political or unlawful command influence.

A similar case is winding its way through the military justice system. When the Air Force’s own head of sexual assault prevention programs, Lt. Colonel Jeffrey Kusinski was arrested for an alleged drunken sexual assault, the Secretary of Defense personally called the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, to express his outrage and either promise or extract a promise from Secretary Donly (the Washington Post’s reporting is not clear as to which) that the matter would be “dealt with quickly and decisively.”)

Kusinski’s defense counsel will no doubt raise the issue of unlawful command influence in the UCMJ proceedings. Given the precedences already in place, including this one, it is difficult to imagine a court finding that there was no undue command influence taking place. What is less clear is what the proposed remedy would be.

We first raised the alarm bells about undue and unlawful political and command influence in UCMJ proceedings here, where I wrote “Where any decision in favor of a defendant in a sexual harassment case is liable to come under fire straight from Secretary of Defense, and potentially become a career-ender for any officer, then we can trust no prosecution.” At least one military judge agrees, as far as the sentencing goes.

Meanwhile, if this sailor is indeed convicted, and if he is indeed guilty, the military may well be stuck with a sexual predator they can’t discharge. Who loses? Good sailors. 

House Passes 2-Year Minimum Sentence for UCMJ Rape and Sexual Assault Cases

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

2-Year Minimum Sentence for UCMJ Rape The House of Representatives handily passed a measure to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two years confinement, plus dismissal or dishonorable discharge, for those convicted of rape or sexual assault under the UCMJ. If the measure is ultimately signed into law as part of a larger bill, it would increase the stakes for any servicemember accused. It would also make it more likely that the offender will never target anyone else while in uniform. This is important because last year nearly 25 percent of those convicted via the UCMJ remained in the service.

According to the Servicewomen’s Action Network, the military received 3,192 reports of sexual assaults against its members – overwhelmingly against women. The military considered 1,518 of them to be “actionable,” meaning the severity warranted criminal prosecution under the UCMJ, the event fell under UCMJ jurisdiction, and there was enough evidence, in the estimation of prosecutors, to potentially obtain a conviction. Out of the roughly 8 percent of the total number of sexual assault reported, there were 191 convictions. Of these, about 148 were discharged or dismissed. Another 15 or so resigned rather than face trials. That still leaves a significant number of troops who were allowed to remain in uniform despite a UCMJ conviction for sexual assault on their records.

The UCMJ includes a potential death sentence for rape under article 120. This article has already been reviewed and revised in 2007. Under the old law, prosecutors had to demonstrate that the accused had had sexual contact with the accuser without consent. Congress’s revision effectively put the burden of proof on the accused. Instead of merely needing to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s claim, the revised statute required the accused to prove that the accuser actually consented to the sexual contact.

Some courts have found this burden shift to be constitutionally questionable, violating the right to due process under the 5th. The law also removed the question of consent as an element of the crime, in an attempt to place investigative focus on the accused rather than on the accuser. There were significant problems with this approach, since the 6th amendment still guarantees the accused the right to confront witnesses against him. Congress therefore revised Article 120 again in 2012. More details here.

There has only been one execution for rape under the UCMJ since WWII: Pvt. John Arthur Bennett was hanged in 1961 at Fort Leavenworth for raping and attempting to murder an 11-year old girl in Austria. Earnest L. Ransom was also executed at Fort Leavenworth in 1957, but he had also been convicted of premeditated murder along with raping a 14-year-old Korean girl. 

Stuck on a tarmac

Posted by Charlotte Webster

There are probably few things worse than being stuck on a tarmac with a delayed flight. You have places to go, but you have no idea when the plane will finally get in the air. Flight connections will be missed. Family members scheduled to pick you up have to put their days on hold to be ready when you finally do make it to your final destination. It gets hot and stuffy. You might get hungry and cranky. And it gets boring. Really boring.

But sometimes passengers are able to make the most of their idle time and actually find ways to entertain themselves (or everyone around them). 

This week, we have two videos of passengers trying to pass the time in creative ways. Which flight would you have preferred to be on? And what have you done to pass the time if you’ve been stuck — hopefully not on a tarmac but inside a terminal — waiting for your flight? Tell us in the comments. And have a Fun Friday!

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