COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – The United States Attorney’s Office played a key role in the planning and coordination of three separate outreach events to military lawyers across the midlands and low country in support of service members in South Carolina.
Three federal laws are designed specifically to assist Servicemembers: the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights (USERRA), which protects the employment and reemployment rights of service members; the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA), which helps protect Servicemembers’ financial security; and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 ("UOCAVA”).
On the front end, the military legal community plays a crucial role in protecting Servicemembers’ rights. Legal assistance attorneys across South Carolina (and the country) provide guidance to Servicemembers regarding their rights under these statutes. Military lawyers are usually very successful in taking steps to solve Servicemembers’ USERRA and SCRA issues. Where appropriate, military lawyers contact and educate employers and creditors to prevent problems before they worsen.
Unfortunately, there are employers and creditors that neglect to follow the laws that protect Servicemembers’ employment and financial rights. That is where the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice (DOJ) step in, enforcing these laws that protect the three categories of Servicemember civil rights: financial/housing; employment; and voting. The Justice Department has established the Service Members and Veterans Initiative, which is a centralized hub to help organize and lead enforcement efforts.
On September 9-10, 2016, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Sneed and DOJ Attorney Andrew Braniff (Assistant Director of the DOJ Servicemember and Veterans Initiative) met with over 50 members of the South Carolina military legal community to discuss and identify current legal issues affecting service members.
The outreach events included a multi- service conference on Friday September 9, 2016, at Joint Base Charleston, hosted by the installation’s Staff Judge Advocate office, led by Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Brian "BT" Thompson. The event included several members of the military legal assistance from South Carolina’s Low Country. Participants included active duty and reserve Air Force lawyers and paralegals, Air Force civilian military assistance attorneys, active-duty Marine Corps lawyers from the Beaufort area, and active-duty Charleston-based Coast Guard lawyers.
On Saturday, September 10, 2016, similar outreach events were held in two locations in the Columbia area with Army Reserve and Guard judge advocates (JAG’s or military attorneys). One event was at Fort Jackson, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office and DOJ met with Army Reserve lawyers and paralegals from the 12th Legal Operations Detachment (12th LOD) and the 81st Regional Support Command (81st RSC). The Fort Jackson Staff Judge Advocate’s Office also planned and participated in the event, and it was led by Fort Jackson’s Chief of Legal Assistance, Dorothy Edgerton. The second outreach event was held at the South Carolina Army National Guard, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office and DOJ met with several lawyers at the National Guard Armory.
The three outreach events improved were targeted to improving the cohesion and partnership between the military legal community and the Department of Justice, furthering the goal of the helping Servicemembers to fully enjoy the rights they earned by serving in the United States military.
Acting United States Attorney Beth Drake stated that United States Attorney’s Office, in partnership with other federal agencies and the South Carolina Bar, is committed to devoting time and resources to protect the rights of Servicemembers, and the USAO is proud to serve our nation's men and women in uniform.