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Articles Posted in Military Law

How Does the Army ROTC Program Work?

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

The US Military’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a system through which many college students can pursue an undergraduate education while conducting military training that prepares them for a period of service as a commissioned military officer. According to the US Army, “The overall mission of the Army ROTC Program is to produce commissioned officers in the quality, quantity, and academic disciplines necessary to meet active Army and reserve component requirements.”1 Army ROTC includes a chain of command starting with a Commanding General and going down through a Battalion Commander and Professor of Military Science (PMS) to individual cadets.

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Attorney Paul Tennison accepting command of Battery B in Poland on August 15, 2019

A military discharge upgrade can be an important step in the life of a veteran who believes that he or she received a lower discharge than what was deserved. Various federal and state benefits are available only to veterans who were discharged at an acceptable level. The best discharge is an Honorable discharge, which should enable the veteran to access all benefits. General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions is the second highest level. Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge is the third level, while a Bad Conduct Discharge is the fourth. Dishonorable is the lowest level of discharge and is reserved for those convicted of serious crimes while in the military. Veterans who receive a Dishonorable Discharge forfeit all benefits, cannot lawfully possess a firearm, and forfeit their right to vote. For more information about types of military discharges, you should refer to this article.1

Fortunately, U.S. federal law allows veterans to request a higher-level discharge through one of two record-correction boards. Within 15 years of discharge, veterans may apply to a Discharge Review Board (DRB) using form DD-293. Importantly, DRBs may not make a discharge worse nor can they overturn a court-martial decision. If a discharge occurred more than 15 years ago, a veteran can apply to the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR). Veterans should apply to the BCMR within 3 years of discovering the error or injustice they are asking the board to fix using form DD-149. BCMRs also cannot make a discharge worse or override a court-martial conviction.

Military Law Attorney Paul E. Tennison

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

You may have heard about Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”). Servicemembers experienced in the realm of military justice may reference Article 15 punishment under numerous terms: punishment by the commander, non-judicial punishment (“NJP”), getting ninja punched, captain’s mast, or admiral’s mast. Essentially an Article 15 proceeding is where a commanding officer determines if a military member has committed a relatively minor infraction of the rules governing military servicemembers. In my Army service I have witnessed Article 15s for many different circumstances, including soldiers being repeatedly late to formation, a soldier being absent without leave (“AWOL”) for a short period of time, a soldier reporting drunk to duty, a soldier involved in a bar fight, a soldier that got a DUI, a soldier breaking curfew, insubordination, and a soldier falling asleep while on guard duty. More serious crimes under the UCMJ will go straight to a court-martial and not be adjudicated under Article 15. Article 15 proceedings are much more common than courts-martial.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the law that applies to U.S. military servicemembers.¹ This includes all branches of the uniformed services in the United States: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. However, the UCMJ does not apply in all circumstances. For example, National Guard and Air Guard Soldiers are only subject to the UCMJ when activated in a federal capacity. Military reserve components, servicemembers, and service academy cadets are governed by the UCMJ. ROTC cadets are exempted from the UCMJ even while on active duty for training.²

NATO's Enhanced Forward Prensence

For those of you who have read Paul’s blogs, worked with him on a case, or wish to retain him as your counsel regarding a military law matter, you may have noticed that he has recently been absent from the office. As noted in his attorney profile on our website, Paul attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and subsequently gained extensive military experience that included challenging training exercises overseas in Korea and Germany. He then received his Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt Law while continuing to serve our country as an officer in the Tennessee Army National Guard. Upon passing the Tennessee Bar, Paul joined Cole Law Group as an associate attorney and pursued his passion to build a military law practice to serve military members as well as veterans.

This summer Paul was called up for active duty by the U.S. Army and deployed to Bemowo Piskie, Poland, where he is currently in command of 105 soldiers in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group Poland. The eFP provides a responsive and flexible military capability to respond to any aggressive act as part of NATO’s overall deterrence and defensive posture. 

Battle Group Poland is a multinational battle group, comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers that will serve alongside the host nation’s 15th Mechanized Brigade as a defense and deterrence force.

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Attorney Paul Tennison Active Duty

The Physical Disability Review Board was created by federal law with the passage of the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act in 2008. The DTWWA made several significant changes to the care of wounded veterans. First, the law required the military branches to use the same disability determination rating scale as that used by the VA. Second, the law expanded the care available to injured service members after their military service. This included changes in treatment in military and civilian facilities for a variety of conditions, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Third, the new law required comprehensive plans to address TBI and PTSD. Fourth, the law directed the Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish physical disability review boards to review disability determinations meeting certain criteria and timeline requirements. The law also addressed the quality of housing provided to patients by requiring improved standards.1

After the law passed, the DoD issued instruction 6040.44 which “establish[ed] policies, assign[ed] responsibilities, and provide[d] procedures for PDBR operation and management as required by section 1554a of Title 10, United States Code.”2 The PDBR’s mandate is to: “reassess the accuracy and fairness of the combined disability ratings assigned former service members” who meet certain criteria.3 Those criteria are summarized here:

Attorney Paul Tennison active duty

Attorney Paul Tennison active duty

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs administers disability compensation that veterans have for illnesses or injuries which were caused by, or have been made worse during, active military service. The compensation may include financial support and other benefits such as health care.  Click here for more information on eligibility requirements for VA disability.

If you believe you are eligible for Veterans Affairs disability, the first step is to gather any supporting documentation for your claim. You will need evidence such as military records related to the injury or illness at issue, your medical treatment records, and your DD214 or other separation documents. Fill out your claim form completely and include all the relevant evidence. Today, you have several options for how you can file a claim:

Understanding USERRA

USERRAThe Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal law designed to protect the civilian employment of active, reserve, and national guard military personnel in the United States called to active duty.1 The three major purposes of USERRA are protection against discrimination, minimize disruption by providing for prompt reemployment, and protection of one’s pre-deployment job.2 The law clarifies that it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees because of past, present, or future military service

Enforcement

Military LawThe Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is located in Chapter 37 of the United States Code.¹It is Federal law that applies to the U.S. Military. The UCMJ “defines the military justice system and lists criminal offenses under military law.”² On January 1, 2019, major changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice took effect.³ According to the United States Army these changes include: “modernizing definitions for many offenses, adjusting maximum penalties, standardizing court-martial panels, creating new computer-crime laws, and much more.”4 A recent Military Times headline describes these changes as “the biggest update to UCMJ in decades”.5

Significant criminal offense changes include:

  • Replacing the offense of adultery with “extra-marital sexual conduct.” The offense was also broadened to include all types of sexual acts.
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