About the Initiative
About the Initiative
The Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative coordinates with Department of Justice components and federal agencies to build a comprehensive legal support and protection network focused on serving servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The Department is tasked with enforcing certain laws that protect the rights of servicemembers. The Initiative builds upon this critical enforcement work, as well as the work of other Department components that serve the military community, by sharing information, identifying servicemember and veteran needs, and coordinating the distribution of resources. The Initiative’s mission is to support the Department in its efforts to protect those who protect us all.
Upholding The Law
- The Department protects a servicemember's civilian employment rights by enforcing the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA").
- The Department protects military voting rights by enforcing the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 ("UOCAVA").
- The Department promotes financial security for servicemembers, recent veterans, and military family members through its Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ("SCRA") actions brought on behalf of the United States.
- The Initiative identifies current legal issues affecting servicemembers and veterans and coordinates with Judge Advocate General Corps, Offices of the United States Attorneys, other federal agencies and bureaus, and legal assistance providers to resolve those issues.
The Department provides training to United States Attorneys Offices on the laws the Department enforces on behalf of servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
The Initiative has partnered with the Department’s pro bono project and other outside legal providers to enlist and train volunteer attorneys.
The Initiative promotes toolkits for attorneys that address the specialized laws and resources available to stop or respond to consumer fraud targeting servicemembers and veterans.
For The Military Community
The Initiative provides servicemembers, veterans and their families with online information on the laws that protect them and the legal resources within their communities.
The Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance maintains a training curriculum for veterans treatment courts. These courts promote sobriety, recovery, and stability for veterans who become involved in the criminal justice system and who are also struggling with mental health issues or battling addictions.
The Initiative has a dedicated telephone line used to field calls from servicemembers, veterans, and their family members, and it strives to provide callers with contact information for local legal resources and education on the statutes that protect their rights.
Community Listening Sessions
The Initiative facilitates and coordinates listening sessions between Department leaders and members of the military to identify the legal issues impacting today’s servicemembers.
The Department recently submitted to Congress a legislative package of amendments to laws that protect members of the military. The Initiative worked closely with other Department components to achieve this submission. These proposed amendments strengthen the protections currently in place by:
- requiring parties seeking default judgments against individuals to first check Department of Defense records to determine military duty status;
- increasing penalties that employers, lenders, and landlords will face for violating laws designed to protect servicemembers;
- expanding the number and types of cases the United States may bring in defense of servicemembers attempting to return to their civilian employment upon completion of their military service;
- expanding the available remedies for violations of the voting rights of servicemembers and their families while they are overseas;
- affording dependent family members the same state residency rights as the servicemember; and
- requiring states to recognize a servicemember spouse’s professional licensures from other states.
Recent Department Successes
- On June 12, 2015, checks were mailed to 77,795 servicemembers under an SCRA settlement between the United States and three separate owners or servicers of private and federally guaranteed student loans (collectively “Sallie Mae”). These 77,795 checks represent over $60 million in compensation for servicemembers having been charged excess interest on their student loans.
- Under the SCRA portion of the National Mortgage Settlement, a settlement involving five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers, a total of 2,413 servicemembers are receiving over $311 million for allegedly wrongful mortgage foreclosures.
- An April 15, 2015 UOCAVA settlement agreement with the State of Illinois ensured that special elections to fill a vacancy in an Illinois congressional district were scheduled so that ballots were sent by the 45th day before the special primary and the following special election, as UOCAVA requires, ensuring that overseas military ballots were received and counted.
- Under a February 10, 2016 USERRA settlement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, a Marine Corps Reservist and Somerville firefighter received more than $15,000 in back pay and will be permitted to take a missed examination for promotion to captain.
Deputy Associate Attorney General
Director of the Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative
U.S. Department of Justice
810 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531