Sexual Assault in the Military

The Pentagon released a report this week indicating that sexual assaults in the military spiked from approximately 19,000 in 2011 to an estimated 26,000 assaults in 2012, reflecting a 37-percent increase over the one-year period. This data, coupled with the low percentage of cases that result in court-martial, has led a flurry of legislative action addressing this disturbing trend.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned that the Pentagon "may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission to recruit and retain the good people we need."

Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) introduced bipartisan legislation (S. 871) that is supported by FRA and would provide specialized legal assistance to military victims of sexual assault, as well as revise some of the procedures for court-martial cases related to sexual assault.

Reps. Mike Turner (Ohio) and Niki Tsongas (Mass.) introduced a bipartisan measure (H.R. 1867) in the House this week that would require dismissal or dishonorable discharge for any service member found guilty of sexual assault or attempts to commit such acts. The Better Enforcement for Sexual Assault Free Environments Act of 2013 would also prevent any military officer from altering or dismissing a sexual assault court-martial conviction.

Other lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), support ending the process that permits senior officers to overturn a jury conviction in such cases and called on senators to include provisions addressing the issue in the 2014 Defense authorization bill. Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (N.Y) and Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.), chairs of the Senate and House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittees, respectively, have issued statements that this issue will be addressed during their panels' upcoming mark-up of the FY 2014 Defense Authorization legislation.

GI Bill Improvements Move Forward in the House

The House Veterans Affairs Committee recently approved the "GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act" (H.R. 357), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, and the committee's ranking member, Rep. Mike Michaud (Maine). The bill requires colleges and universities eligible for GI Bill education benefits to give veterans in-state tuition rates even if they are not residents of the state where the school is located.

"The men and women who served this nation did not just defend the citizens of their home states, but the citizens of all 50 states. As such, the educational benefits they receive from the taxpayers should reflect that," said Chairman Miller. "By offering in-state tuition, service members can attend an institution of higher learning that meets their specific needs without worrying about higher costs which non-residents often must pay."

"Because of the nature of military service, veterans often have a difficult time establishing residency for purposes of obtaining in-state tuition rates," added Ranking Member Michaud. "This bill will address this problem and ensure that veterans can access the affordable higher education options they have earned."

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

House and Senate Approve Stolen Valor Act

The House and Senate approved the FRA-supported "Stolen Valor Act" this week and the measure now awaits White House approval. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck (Nev.), protects the integrity of military awards by making it a crime to knowingly benefit from fraudulent claims of military decorations. In June of 2012, the Supreme Court (United States v. Alvarez) overturned a previous Stolen Valor law on the grounds that it infringed on constitutionally-protected free speech.

This bill makes a key change to the previous language that should withstand constitutional scrutiny because the legislation narrowly focuses on those who seek to benefit from their misrepresentations of military awards - not the lie itself.

HVAC Examines VA Claims Backlog

The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) recently held another oversight hearing on the disability claims backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Committee members voiced concerns about the scope of the backlog, employee training and performance reviews, and how VA plans to justify to veterans lengthy wait times for decisions. Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey spoke about the 34,834 claims that have been adjudicated within the last 30 days and how Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) will finalize an additional 32,000 by the end of June.

To help address the situation, HVAC Chairman Jeff Miller (Fla.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) introduced legislation (H.R. 2189) that would establish and charge an independent task force to analyze VA's claims processing system, examine the root cause of the backlog and provide solutions for ending it by 2015. Chairman Miller wants outside help from the private sector and the VSO community in working toward a solution.

Ranking Member Michael Michaud (Maine) expressed skepticism about eliminating the backlog on the legislation's timeline. "In April 2011, it took an average of 182 days for VA to complete a claim. Today, it takes an average of 279 days. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has set a goal of processing all compensation and pension claims received in 125 days at 98% accuracy by 2015. VA is planning to increase staff, undertaken claims processing initiatives, and is in the process of rolling out the Veterans' Benefits Management System (VBMS), a business transformation effort that is projected to result in a paperless environment for claims processing and benefits delivery," said Michaud. "But there is no question that VA must do better, and the numbers don't add up for VA to get there by 2015."

NEX Expands Price Match Policy

The Navy Exchange (NEX) announced that it will now match online prices from,,,,, and

"We expanded our Price Match Policy to be more responsive to our customers," said Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi (Ret), Chief Executive Officer for Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM). "More people are shopping online for their purchases and we want to assure them that they can get the same price at their NEX, so we are now matching major online retailers."

The qualifying competitive online price may be presented on a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone. If the price difference is $10 or less, the price will be matched on the spot. If the online site's price is more than $10 lower than that offered at the NEX, it may be verified by a NEX associate or supervisor.

The NEX will also continue to match the regular, everyday shelf price or advertised price in a local competitor's current advertisement. Customers should present the advertised price in the form of a printed advertisement or displayed on a mobile device.

Shoppers should also be aware of NEX's 14-day price guarantee: If customers buy a qualifying item at a NEX and then find the identical item for less within 14 days in an NEX ad, a local competitor's ad or at a qualifying online retailer (listed above), NEX will match the price. Simply bring in the original NEX store receipt and proof of the current lower price. Items already on layaway also qualify for a price reduction.

It's also important to remember that NEXCOM contributes 70 percent of its profits to Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs worldwide and that every purchase is also an investment in these important quality-of-life programs.

For details and more information about the price matching policy and all NEX policies, visit or stop in and speak with an NEX associate.

No more vehicle decals - Get ready to rip that sticker off your windshield

Effective July 1, all bases that fall under Navy Installations Command are no longer requiring vehicle decals. The news came via a fleetwide message issued May 29. The decals, only in use stateside, have become a security threat and a liability, officials say. They've already been eliminated at Air Force and Army bases.

The Marine Corps is still hashing out its plan to do so. With the Navy only weeks away from implementing its policy, here's what you need to know:

Why they're going away. In the U.S., post-9/11, decals present problems for base security. They are easily counterfeited, for one. Also, some sailors sell their cars to civilians and don't remove the stickers, said Ray Salamy, deputy program director for anti-terrorism at Navy Installations Command. "Decals posed a Trojan horse for us," he said. As a bonus, cutting decals will save $750,000 annually.

Surprise vehicle checks. The real purpose of decals, installation officials said, was to ensure compliance with state requirements such as registration and insurance. So with decals gone, how will they do this? Salamy said bases will rely on random checks, similar to drunken driving checkpoints. Command authorized inspections such as these are not new, but you may see more of them with decals eliminated.

What do you do on July 1? The Navy recommends sailors remove decals on this day to reduce the chances your vehicle will be targeted by a criminal or terrorist attack. The identifying decals aren't sup-posed to be used to determine gate entry, so removing them should not result in longer waits at the gate, Salamy said. The military has required 100 percent ID-card checks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the decal is not a substitute. If in practice, your sentries are waving lots of cars through the gate based on decals, that's a violation of policy and may be worth reporting, Salamy said, as it's a compromise of security.

Officer salutes. Commissioned officers will continue to be saluted under the new policy. Once an ID card is checked, a sentry will "render the proper salute, assuming traffic conditions and force protection conditions permit," installation officials state on a list of frequently asked questions. You can read them at You are also able to submit your own questions.

More changes. By July, the Navy expects to go operational with several automatic gates installed at Northwest Navy installations, Salamy said. The new gates are not intended to eliminate sentries, but will be a "low-man concept." They should free those sentries still on-site to focus on other things than ID cards, Salamy said. For example, scrutinizing passengers or vehicle contents.

Back To Top