Veterans Day Message From The Civil Rights Division
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns fell silent and the First World War drew to an end. On this day ever since, our nation has shown its gratitude to the veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day is an opportunity to show respect to the veterans we know as our friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division remembers the fallen, and offers thanks to all the men and women who have served in the military and their families.
The Civil Rights Division is home to the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s enforcement of laws that protect the rights of servicemembers and veterans. The Initiative also conducts outreach to the military community regarding these laws.
“It is my honor as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division to be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the rights of the brave men and women of our nation’s armed forces, and the veterans who have served in the past, are safeguarded,” stated Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Civil Rights Division’s efforts have resulted in great benefits to our servicemembers and veterans, and we will continue these efforts during my tenure. The violation of anyone’s civil rights is a disgrace, and the Civil Rights Division will not tolerate anyone who violates the rights of servicemembers or anyone else in our nation.”
The Department of Justice’s cases and settlements under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act have resulted in $470 million in monetary relief for over 119,000 servicemembers and veterans who suffered violations of their financial and housing rights. In the past year alone, in addition to filing cases involving unlawful home foreclosures and unlawful auto repossessions, the Department brought its first case alleging an unlawful failure to refund pre-paid lease amounts to servicemembers who, due to their military service, terminated their motor vehicle leases early. The Department also brought its first two cases alleging unlawful requirements by landlords that servicemembers repay incentives offered at lease signing when terminating their residential leases early because of their military service.
The Division continues to enhance its enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) against private, state, and local government employers, through litigation, facilitated settlements, outreach, and advocacy. Since the Division began enforcing USERRA in 2004, it has filed 104 USERRA lawsuits and favorably resolved 185 USERRA complaints. During the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice has filed five complaints on behalf of seven servicemembers and filed or negotiated private settlements in excess of $500,000. For example, on May 21, the Department filed a complaint and settlement with the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) that resolved allegations that the PRPB violated the employment rights of Puerto Rico Army National Guard Members Second Lieutenant Wilfredo Cruz Rivera, Sergeant Jose R. Bernal Martinez, and Sergeant Angel L. Martinez Toro.
The right to vote is among our most fundamental civil rights. Protecting the rights of servicemembers and their families to vote in our nation’s federal elections, whether they are serving here or abroad, is one of our highest priorities. Through the enforcement of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), the Department ensures that servicemembers and overseas U.S. citizens have the opportunity to request and receive absentee ballots in time to vote and have their votes counted. The Department vigilantly monitored nationwide compliance with UOCAVA for the 2018 federal elections. In 2018, the Department instituted litigation against the State of Arizona because it failed to transmit final absentee ballots within 45 days of a February 2018 special election, as required by law. The State of Arizona entered into an agreement that mandated that it provide additional time for the receipt of UOCAVA ballots to ensure that eligible military and overseas voters have sufficient time to vote in the special primary election and all future federal elections.
For our veterans with disabilities, the Department continues to vigorously enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure equal access to all aspects of civic and community life. In recent months, the Department resolved complaints from veterans who alleged that, because they use a service animal, they were denied access to restaurants, shops, and health care facilities. Under these resolutions, these entities must comply with and train staff on the ADA’s service animal requirements and, where appropriate, compensate aggrieved individuals.
We are grateful to be a nation defined by the bravery of the men and women who have selflessly served our country. The Department of Justice thanks our brave and devoted veterans, and commits to honor our current military members and veterans through the ongoing work of the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative.