IAVA Urges Senate to Pass Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA)

IAVA Urges Senate to Pass Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA)

CONTACT: Carlisle Williams (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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IAVA Urges Senate to Pass Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA)

50 Senators must stand with survivors and post-9/11 veterans nationwide

NEW YORK (November 18, 2013) – Today, as debate opened on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) urged the all members of the Senate to stand with survivors of military sexual assault and post-9/11 veterans nationwide and pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) when it is proposed as an amendment to the NDAA this week.  50 Senators have yet to publicly support the amendment. The Military Justice Improvement Act is essential to protecting survivors and the health and well being of our military. It would put decisions of whether to move cases involving serious crimes to a court martial in the hands of experienced military prosecutors, establishing a more impartial justice system that will balance aggressive prosecution with the rights of the accused. 

A recent Department of Defense survey estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact occurred in 2012. Yet only 3,374 cases of sexual assault were reported. The same survey indicated 62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault experienced retaliation. 

“It is clear the military’s approach to combatting sexual trauma needs to be overhauled,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of IAVA. “This is the time for members of the Senate to show courage, stand with IAVA members nationwide and vote for the Military Justice Improvement Act. This week, just a few Senators can be the difference between a stronger military justice system and continuing the failing status quo. This is a bi-partisan bill that protects survivors, overhauls a broken system and improves our national security. IAVA calls on all members of the Senate to stand on the right side of history and pass the Military Justice Improvement Act. We also call on the Commander In Chief to show his support for this critical legislation to protect survivors and encourage all members of the Senate to vote ‘Yes’.”

By putting prosecution decisions in the hands of experienced military lawyers, the Military Justice Improvement Act ensures that decisions to move to trial will be based on the evidence of the case alone, giving both survivors and the accused confidence in the impartiality of the system. The bill continues to equip commanders with tools to prevent and address sexual assault within their units.

While momentum continues to build in support of the Military Justice Improvement Act, the Senate vote promises to be close. So far, only 50 Senators, including 9 Republicans and 41 Democrats, have publicly shown support for the measure. It’s a diverse, surprisingly bi-partisan list. Conservative Rand Paul and liberal Al Franken are behind the same bill. Ted Cruz and Diane Feinstein. As the 2014 election looms, make no mistake that veteran voters—and especially people who care about women’s issues—will be watching.

In October, the Defense Advisory Council on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) voted to support the approach forwarded by the Military Justice Improvement Act.  Other supporters of the MJIA include the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), and the Servicewomen’s Action Network (SWAN). Leaders in the women’s movement, including the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Health Network, the National Women’s Law Center, and YWCA Inc, are behind the change as well.

IAVA calls on the 50 Senators yet to publicly support the Military Justice Improvement Act to vote for the amendment. The 50 Senators are Senator Alexander (R-TN), Senator Ayotte (R-NH), Senator Barrasso (R-WY), Senator Baucus (D-MT), Senator Blunt (R-MO), Senator Boozman (R-AR), Senator Brown (D-OH), Senator Burr (R-NC), Senator Chambliss (R-GA), Senator Coats (R-IN), Senator Coburn (R-OK), Senator Cochran (R-MS), Senator Corker (R-TN), Senator Cornyn (R-TX), Senator Crapo (R-ID), Senator Durbin (D-IL), Senator Enzi (R-WY), Senator Fischer (R-NE), Senator Flake (R-AZ), Senator Graham (R-SC), Senator Hatch (R-UT), Senator Hoeven (R-ND), Senator Inhofe (R-OK), Senator Isakson (R-GA), Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Senator Kaine (D-VA), Senator King (I-ME), Senator Lee (R-UT), Senator Levin (D-MI), Senator Manchin (D-WV), Senator McCain (R-AZ), Senator McCaskill (D-MO),  Senator McConnell (R-KY), Senator Moran (R-KS), Senator Murphy (D-CT), Senator Nelson (D-FL), Senator Portman (R-OH), Senator Reed (D-RI), Senator Risch (R-ID), Senator Roberts (R-KS), Senator Rubio (R-FL), Senator Scott (R-SC), Senator Sessions (R-AL), Senator Shelby (R-AL), Senator Tester (D-MT), Senator Thune (R-SD), Senator Toomey (R-PA), Senator Warner (D-VA), Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), and Senator Wicker (R-MS). 

IAVA also urges President Obama to show key leadership on ending sexual assault in the military by publically supporting the Military Justice Improvement Act. To date, he has not taken a stand on the legislation. 

IAVA will be mobilizing members nationwide, in Washington and online all week long to support this critical legislation. We also encourage all Americans to call their Senators and encourage them to stand with us on this important issue. 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation’s first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. IAVA recently received the highest rating – four-stars – from Charity Navigator, America’s largest charity evaluator.

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