Justice Department Announces Pilot Program to Provide Military Communities Across the Country with Dedicated Legal Support
The Department of Justice today announced a new program, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Enforcement Support Pilot Program, to support enforcement efforts related to protecting the rights of current and former military personnel as part of the department’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a federal law that provides wide-ranging financial and housing protections and benefits for military members as they enter active duty.
With the support of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys and the Civil Rights Division, the new pilot program funds Assistant U.S. Attorney and trial attorney positions to assist the department’s litigating components with SCRA enforcement, and also designates military judge advocates currently serving as legal assistance attorneys to serve as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys to support the department’s enforcement efforts related to the SCRA. U.S. Attorneys throughout the country will also be appointing Initiative Liaisons to work with local military and veteran communities.
“The men and women who bravely defend our country deserve more than just our respect – they deserve our unyielding support,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “The pilot program we are announcing today will enhance our ability to safeguard the economic and legal rights of our servicemembers, our veterans and their families. In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue working tirelessly to ensure that our laws protect those who protect us.”
“Servicemembers sacrifice a lot to protect our freedom and our security, and in turn our laws protect them and their families from unscrupulous financial predators,” said Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer. “The SCRA Enforcement Support Pilot adds significant legal resources designed to stop these predators. Whether a servicemember has a financial or housing related issue, the Department of Justice will investigate complaints promptly and vigorously take enforcement action against wrongdoers.”
The pilot provides full-time support for SCRA enforcement efforts through the end of Fiscal Year 2018 and funds Assistant U.S. Attorneys in districts with major military installations and additional trial attorneys in the Civil Rights Division, for a terminal period. The Assistant U.S. Attorneys will principally be responsible for coordinating with Staff Judge Advocate’s Offices on military installations and bringing claims in coordination with the Civil Rights Division against those who target servicemembers.
The pilot also allows military judge advocates (JAG) who are serving as legal assistance attorneys to be designated as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the purpose of assisting with SCRA litigation. The Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative will coordinate the assignment of these JAG officers with U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country. U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Western District of Washington and the Eastern District of North Carolina are the first districts adding these valuable military legal resources.
In addition to the funding, it was announced that the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative has become a permanent component within the Office of the Associate Attorney General and will be led by Director Silas V. Darden. The department created the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative in December 2014 with a mission to support the department in its efforts to protect those who protect us all. Please visit www.servicemembers.gov for more information about the initiative.