IThis Veterans’ Day, America’s military service members and veterans will receive recognition for the deep sacrifices they make for our country. Yet all too often, their rights are violated right here at home. At the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, we are working to protect the civil rights of our military service members and veterans.
Raising awareness of these rights is an important part of our work.
A number of federal laws protect the rights of service members and veterans. For example, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act requires civilian employers to put veterans back to work after military service, and guarantees certain benefits, such as health insurance coverage and pension vesting.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently used this law to represent a Detroit area firefighter, who is an Army reservist, when he was denied a seniority-based promotion to which he was entitled under the law after returning from active duty in Afghanistan. As a result of this case, the firefighter received $25,000 in back pay, pension contributions and other damages, and his seniority date was adjusted to the date when he should have received the promotion.
In another case, a Detroit area employer delayed a veteran’s return to work as a security guard. The U.S Attorney’s Office intervened, and obtained back pay for the veteran for the period of delay that the law forbids.
This summer, the Department of Justice settled a case for $12 million under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides a wide range of financial relief to service members. The case alleged that Capital One improperly repossessed cars, wrongfully foreclosed on homes and denied service members the appropriate interest rates on credit cards, car loans and other types of accounts. In another settlement, Countrywide paid $20 million to resolve allegations brought by the Justice Department that it unlawfully foreclosed on the homes of active duty military personnel.
Recently, here in Michigan, the Department of Justice filed suit and settled a case under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act to protect the right to vote for service members who are stationed overseas. As a result of the settlement, service members from Michigan received full access to absentee registration and voting in this year’s November elections.
As U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., has said, the Justice Department will never hesitate to defend the rights and opportunities that our airmen, soldiers, sailors and marines deserve. Here in the Eastern District of Michigan, we stand ready to protect those who have done so much to protect us. Report violations of veterans and service members’ civil rights at 313-226-9151.
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan