Budget act includes changes to Army sexual assault policy
By David VergunFebruary 8, 2017
Changes to the law covering the review of discharges, the definition of sexual harassment and reporting requirements for the Department of Defense have taken effect.Many of the changes in the law reflect practices already adopted by DOD, according to Col. Walter M. Hudson, chief of the Army's Criminal Law Division in the Office of the Judge Advocate General. The changes came about when the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 was signed into law by the president Dec. 23, Hudson said.The new NDAA is now codified in Title 10 of the United States Code and Public Law. The following are some of the changes that were legislated:REVIEW OF DISCHARGESFormer Soldiers with claims of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury in connection with combat or sexual trauma as a basis for their discharge can now provide medical evidence from the Department of Veterans Affairs or civilian health care providers to discharge review boards as a possible means to upgrade their discharge status. The board is instructed to give "liberal consideration" to that evidence.Through enhanced public outreach, engagement with veterans' service organizations, military service organizations, and other outside groups, as well as direct outreach to individual veterans, the DOD encourages all veterans who believe they have experienced an error or injustice to request relief from their service's Board for Correction of Military/Naval Records or Discharge Review Board.For discharge upgrades, if the discharge was less than 15 years ago, veterans should complete DD Form 293 (included in the related links section below) and send it to their service's discharge review board (the address is on the form). For discharges over 15 years ago, veterans should complete the DD Form 149 (also included in the related links section below) and send it to the address on the form.SEXUAL HARASSMENT DEFINITIONS REFINEDThe definition of sexual harassment that triggers a command investigation will no longer be limited to "the work environment." It will simply be "the environment," meaning it could take place anywhere and at any time. This change reflects current training that advises Soldiers that they can be held accountable for acts of harassment that occur off post or during off-duty hours.TRAINING FOR RETALIATION INVESTIGATORSAll personnel who are tasked to investigate claims of retaliation by Soldiers reporting sexual assault will receive special training on the nature and consequences of both the retaliation as well as the sexual assault trauma. Those receiving the training are personnel of the Criminal Investigation Service or CID, Inspector General offices, and anyone assigned by a commander to investigate claims of retaliation made by or against members of the command.Alleged victims of sexual assault who report retaliation will receive in writing the results of the retaliation investigation.REPORT TO CONGRESSThe services currently provide annual reports regarding the number of complaints of retaliation in connection with reporting of sexual assaults. Going forward, those reports will be much more detailed, including a description of the complaint, demographic information on the complainant and alleged retaliator, and the results of any investigation.