Vanessa Guillen’s family fights to reform defense policy bill
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The American statesman is in his second year of updating on CPS. Vanessa Guillen case. Journalist Heather Osbourne has been covering the Guillen case since the soldier’s disappearance in April 2020 and has investigated the toxic culture of Fort Hood which has sparked public outcry and called for reforms from the highest levels of government.
US Army Spc family killed. Vanessa Guillen, who is fighting for reforms in the way the military handles sexual assault and harassment, this week moved closer to her goal of investigating such cases outside of the direct chain of command of a soldier.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., on Monday tabled an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act – an annual law that sets out the country’s defense policies – which could be added to the final version for fiscal year 2022 if she is adopted in early November. .
The amendment would allow servicemen who are victims of sexual assault or harassment to file a complaint and receive monetary compensation if their case is mistreated, according to Guillen family lawyer Natalie Khawam.
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Khawam said she pushed Gillibrand to add the amendment at the last minute so that it could potentially be included in the final version of the defense bill and help the Guillens finally find some form of justice.
“Senator Gillibrand has tabled an amendment to include claims that will bring relief to our soldiers because they need and deserve a remedy like any victim of sexual misconduct,” said Khawam, who represented the Guillen family at no charge. shortly after the death of the soldier from Fort Hood. in April 2020. “Without recourse, there is no bite in this law, and therefore there will be no accountability.”
Soldiers on active duty currently cannot sue the Defense Department for pain and suffering if they are victims of sex crimes. The same goes for families like Vanessa Guillen’s, who cannot receive monetary compensation for the death of their loved one or the sexual harassment she suffered.
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What happened to Vanessa Guillen?
At the end of April, a year after Guillen’s disappearance, Army chiefs first confirmed that Guillen, 20, had been sexually harassed and subjected to reprisals at Fort Hood, as her family had always claimed.
Authorities suspect another Fort Hood soldier, Spc. Aaron Robinson, beat Guillen to death with a hammer in an armory room on duty on the morning of April 22, 2020. Robinson was shot and killed on July 1, 2020, as authorities sought to question him, according to the report. Killeen police.
However, army chiefs claim that it was another non-commissioned officer, whom they refused to identify, who sexually harassed Guillen.
Regardless, the Guillen family has been pushing for new legislation for over a year that would allow outside investigators to look into allegations of sex crimes among soldiers. The legislation was originally called the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act in reference to the viral social media hashtag the military used online to describe their own experiences as victims of sexual misconduct in the military.
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Lawmakers supporting the I Am Act Vanessa Guillen explained that current military protocols are flawed and problematic as investigators are often those who are part of a victim’s direct chain of command and frequently have personal connections with those accused of a crime and the victim reporting it. As a result, victims fear retaliation if these investigators do not investigate properly and without bias.
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The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, however, will no longer be a stand-alone bill but will instead be incorporated into the Defense Bill.
While the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act would take sexual misconduct investigations outside the chain of command, Gillibrand’s Amendment would also allow soldiers to receive up to $ 800,000 in non-economic damages, and no cap for them. economic damage, if investigators were negligent or if the military failed to protect them from abuse.
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Patrick Murray, director of the National Legislative Service for Foreign War Veterans, said on Wednesday that what the I Am Vanessa Guillen Act aimed to accomplish was long overdue, adding that the VFW hopes it will be added to the bill on defense policy.
“The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act, the amending part of the National Defense Authorization, is something the VFW strongly supports, so we are doing everything we can to provide a safe environment for the men and women on duty and to ensure also that justice is done, ”Murray said.
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The United States House and Senate will meet in late November, selecting the language they want from each chamber’s version of the defense bill. Khawam said on Tuesday that the final version would be released by December.
Mayra Guillen, Vanessa’s older sister, fought alongside Khawam this week to have the amendment added to the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act. On Tuesday, the sister asked everyone to contact their senators and ask them to support the amendment.
“The I Am Vanessa Guillen Act will deliver justice not only to Vanessa, but to all victims of sexual misconduct in the military,” Guillen said. “This change in the process of removing cases from the chain of command will not only make reporting safer for our soldiers, but it will also provide a clearer and more impartial avenue for investigating cases.”
Mayra Guillen said that if the legislation had been in place when her sister needed help, “then she would have been alive today with us and pursued her career in the military and her lifelong dream of serving her. country”.