Active duty military, veterans and their families joined with federal government employees in a specialized civil rights training this week at Fort Benning, a significant U.S. Army installation located along the Georgia-Alabama border.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office hosted the half-day training, delivered by subject matter experts from the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative (SVI), according to Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
The training focused on legislation protecting servicemembers, veterans and their families, including the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Uniformed Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The training was also given to attorneys and staff from the Ft. Benning Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, along with Assistant United States Attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the Southern District of Georgia, the Northern District of Alabama and the Middle District of Alabama.
“Our military does not hesitate to defend our citizens, and we are ready and prepared to go to battle protecting our brave service members when their civil rights are violated,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “Protecting the rights of our military and their families is a high priority for our office. In order to effectively do our job, it is important that we educate servicemembers about the laws that protect them and how to report a problem. We also want to make sure that the federal teams supporting our servicemembers can respond quickly to any violations. I want to thank SVI for providing this critical training, and for their dedication to protecting the civil rights of our servicemembers, veterans and their families.”
“Patriots have protected and defended our nation for nearly 250 years. Many of them made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for all of us, others suffered severe injuries, and all made sacrifices for our country,” said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband, “We owe these valiant Americans our eternal gratitude, and the U.S. Department of Justice will aggressively continue to enforce the federal law protections that Congress enacted to protect servicemembers.”
“As a servicemember and a Legal Assistance attorney working in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, I can attest to the many issues that arise concerning servicemembers, veterans and their families. These issues at times involve events that can only be described as life altering. It is absolutely imperative for our clients to be fully informed of the numerous protections that are available based on sacrificial military service to this great nation. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to organize and attend the training event which brought Mr. Peeler and the trainers from the SVI to Fort Benning,” said Elizabeth Paillere, Legal Assistance Attorney, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning.
Cases filed on behalf of servicemembers and veterans involve many issues, including unlawful home foreclosures, lease agreements, auto repossessions and job termination due to military service. The Department of Justice’s cases and settlements under the SCRA has resulted in $470 million in monetary relief for over 119,155 servicemembers and veterans who experienced violations of their financial and housing rights. The Department has also filed 106 USERRA lawsuits regarding violations of servicemembers and veterans’ civilian employment rights, and favorably resolved 193 USERRA complaints through consent decrees and private settlements.
SVI coordinates with Department of Justice components, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and federal agencies to build a comprehensive legal support and protection network focused on serving servicemembers, veterans and their families. 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. SVI’s mission is to support the Department in its efforts to protect those who protect us all.