NEW YORK (March 6, 2014) – As a result of continued Washington gridlock, a critical military sexual assault bill that would have protected survivors and the health and well-being of our nation’s military failed to pass the Senate today. The failure comes after the transformational Veterans Omnibus Bill (S.1982) was stalled last week. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) strongly supported the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), which would have 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 would have balanced aggressive prosecution with the rights of the accused.
“Washington’s continued games with veterans and servicemembers has become a frustrating pattern – and it’s only March,” said IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff. “This was a missed opportunity for Senate leaders to overhaul the military’s broken system of combatting sexual trauma. They have turned their back on veterans and servicemembers who pushed for reform. Instead, the Senate has chosen to keep the status quo. Our lawmakers should be able to provide a fair and effective military justice system worthy of our veterans and servicemembers.”
Introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the MJIA would have placed prosecution decisions in the hands of experienced military lawyers. MJIA ensured that decisions to move to trial would be based on the evidence of the case alone, giving both survivors and the accused confidence in the impartiality of the system. The bill would have equipped commanders with tools to prevent and address sexual assault within their units. IAVA members from across the country called Senators in support of the legislation, arguing that the MJIA’s reforms are critical to breaking the status quo of pervasive sexual assault in the military.
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Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 8,000 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.