25 October 2009

This week in Congress (26 Oct 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Markup of Pending Legislation (it's not clear which pending legislation will receive the markup), 1000 hours, 340 Cannon House Office Building. The hearing will be web cast live here.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (26 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both the House and Senate are sitting this week.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, hearing on Access to Justice, 1600 - 2200 hours, Committee Room 2S1, Parliament House. [It will be web cast live here.]

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

High Court next sits in Canberra on 3 November 2009.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal was scheduled to sit on 29 and 30 October 2009; however, there are no cases that will be argued this week according to an email received by the Deputy Registrar of the Tribunal. The next sitting will be on 10 and 11 December 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

21 October 2009

Senator Johnston: Australian Navy went overboard on sex betting book allegations

Today the The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting here that the Royal Australian Navy knew within days that claims of sailors on board the HMAS Success having a sex betting book and competitions were false but didn't inform the public and media.

Yesterday Senator David Johnston (Liberal - WA), the Shadow Minister for Defence, issued a press release, which can be found here, said "there is absolutely no grounds, no truth in these claims and yet Mr. Rudd and Ms. Gillard as well as the Chief of Navy dammed these sailors as guilty before proven innocent by remarking on the case in the media."

Today Senator Johnston plans to persue the matter with the Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Houston duing the Senate Estimates hearing. "These men love being in the Navy and they love their jobs and this whole sorry business has illustrated that Defence has a long way to go in the administration of military justice," said Senator Johnston.

The RAN has yet to make a comment regarding the accusations made by Senator Johnston. This blog has previously discussed the sex betting allegations here and here.

20 October 2009

Royal Australian Air Force takes action on special forces disability allowance

Today the Royal Australian Air Force announced it was taking action to resolve the Special Forces Disability Allowance ("SFDA") issue as quickly as possible. Recently, business rules guiding how the SFDA would be applied were still under development and some confusion at a number of levels as to actual entitlements led to incorrect application of the SDFA to Squadron Special Tactics Flight personnel.

Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Personnel and Assisting Shadow Minister for Defence Bob Baldwin, MP (Liberal - Patterson, NSW) issued a press release, which can be found here.

"ADF personnel do not want, and certainly don't deserve, another Minister who follows in the footsteps of the former Minister of Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon," said Baldwin. "I want to know how much each member of 4 Squadron RAAF is owed, I want to know when they will be payed and I want to know why such a situation has been allowed to develop once more," Badwin said.

Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, has directed resolution of the SFDA payment be undertaken as a priority. For further information the RAAF has issued a press release here.

19 October 2009

Commanding Officers to inform Chiefs on results of retirement board

Back in August I discussed the U.S. Navy's retirement board here - which is the first time in more than a decade the Navy has convened such a board. Today the Navy Times reports here that nearly 6,000 Navy chief, senior chiefs and master chiefs will find out this week whether they're in or out. The military newspaper also indicates that the Navy will not release the names of those chiefs who are forced to retire.

Cox Commission II Report on American military justice system released

Today the Cox Commission II Report was released. It can be found here.

There are seven recommendations: (1) Expand appeals to the Courts of Criminal Appeals ("CCA") and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ("CAAF") to make appellate review a matter of right; (2) Enact the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569; (3) Permitting accused to waive their appellate rights in pre-trial agreements; (4) Improvement in access for defense for expert assistance during case investigation and traial; (5) Prohibit prosecutors from attacking the credentials of an expert witness if the government provided that specific expert to the defense as an adequate substantite for an expert requested by the defense; (6) require military law enforcement agencies to videotape custodial interrogations; and (7) repeal Uniform Code of Military Justice article 125 (10 U.S.C. 925)

Over on CAAFlog, Dwight Sullivan discusses the report here, and Mike "No Man" Navarre posts here.

I do applaud the Cox Commission II especially for recommendations (1), (2) and (7). However, I tend to agree with Mr. Navarre's post, in that I was expecting more given all the hype.

After reading the entire report and the appendix items, I'm left wanting more; especially on whether or not to eliminate the CCAs; whether or not to elevate CAAF to an Article III court and it sitting in panels as all other Federal Courts of Appeal; the equal protections issue of servicemembers being tried by military judges in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force who do not have fixed terms of office whilst the Army and Coast Guard appoint their military trial and appellate judges to fixed terms of office; the increased trend in use of Correctional Custody Units in non-judicial punishments; and unlawful command influence within the military justice system and whether or not to give prosecutors more discretion as opposed to the convening authorities.

Ideally the House or Senate Armed Services Committees should be conducting a comprehensive review on the entire UCMJ. Congress has not done a comprehensive review since 1983/84 - more than 25 years ago. Alternatively, Congress should appoint a Congressionally sanctioned commission with the ability to take sworn testimony and give it subpoena power. Given the past patterns of lawmakers in Congress I do not believe any of that will happen.

Then again does the average American civilian citizen really care about how we treat our troops?

New blogger added to Equal Justice for Troops blog

Today Equal Justice for Troops blog has added a new blogger: Nick Wiesener, who is an Australian Army veteran and is presently in law school. He will be blogging on issues related to Australian military justice and veterans matters. Nick lives in Sydney (Bondi Beach) and is from Orange, New South Wales. He is also a member of the Returned & Services League of Australia at North Bondi RSL Sub-Branch (Tobruk House).

The blog welcomes Nick!

18 October 2009

Sexual abuser of Army cadet was already on parole; former cadet now wants other victims to come forward

The Sydney Morning Herald reports here today that Andrew Dean McIntosh, a former volunteer officer of cadets at Barker College, a private school in Hornsby which is on Sydney's north shore, sexually assaulted a boy cadet at a camp whilst still on parole for similar offences.

The college's solicitor, Tunc Ozen, told Judge Michael Finnane that the school didn't know of the previous conviction and his parole status because at the time schools had not been legally required to carry out criminal background checks on employees.

The victim, who is now 34, is seeking other victims to come forward.

My thoughts on this:

Even though this took place prior to the criminal background check requirement, one has to ask why he was still permitted to work with children upon his conviction for similar offences? That should have most certainly been a condition of his parole. And why hadn't the parole officer been checking up on him? Seems like a flaw in the legal system to me
.

The Attorney General of New South Wales should take a hard look at this case. We need to protect our children from this predatory behaviour.

Queen to consider posthumous pardon for Breaker Morant and two others for incident during the Boer War more than 100 years ago

Today The Age reports here that an independent legal review of the cases of Army Lieutenants Harry Harbord "Breaker" Morant, Peter Handcock and George Ramsdale Witton casts serious doubt on the fairness of their court-martial convictions. The review found their court-martial unsafe and unjust. Navy Commander James Unkles, who is an experienced prosecutor, found at least 10 legal grounds to justify a pardon.

This week in Congress (19 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Hearing on Pending Legislation (it's not clear on exactly what pending legislation), 0930 hours, 418 Russell.

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, markup on H.R. 761 - Interment in National Cemeteries of Parents of Certain Deceased Veterans H.R. 3485 - Veterans Pensions Protection Act and Pending Legislation, 1000 hours, 340 Cannon House Office Building. (Here is a link on Thomas for H.R. 761 and H.R. 3485) The hearing will be web cast live here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, markup on H.R. 2504 - Increase in Amount Authorized to be Appropriated for Comprehensive Service Programs for Homeless Veterans, H.R. 2559 - Help Our Homeless Veterans Act, H.R. 2735 - To Make Certain Improvements to the Comprehensive Service Programs for Homeless Veterans, H.R. 3796 - Improve Per Diem Grant Payments for Organizations Assisting Homeless Veterans, H.R. 3073 - Direct Secretary of Veterans Affairs Establish A Grant to Provide Assistance to Veterans Who Are At Risk of Becoming Homeless, and Pending Legislation, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building. (Here is a link on Thomas for H.R. 2504, H.R. 2559, H.R. 2735, H.R. 3796, and H.R. 3073.) The hearing will be web cast live here.

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (19 October 2009) . . .

[UPDATED] The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House is in session this week. However, the Senate will next meet on 26 October 2009.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, 2009-10 Supplementary Budget Estimates (Defence & Veterans), 0900 hours, Committee Room 2S1, Parliament House. [It will be web cast live here.]

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

High Court next sits in Canberra on 3 November 2009.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

15 October 2009

Amendments to Manual for Courts-Martial to be considered

CAAFlog reports here, thanks to Court-Martial Trial Practice blog, that the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Services Committee on Military Justice will hold a public hearing on 29 October 2009 at 1030 hours, 1501 Wilson Blvd., 8th Floor, Rosslyn, Virginia 22209 concerning amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial. Here is a link to the announcement in the Federal Register. The hearing's subject matter includes child pornography offense under Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, article 134 -- the offense could carry up to ten years' brig time and a dishonorable discharge.

13 October 2009

Second Cox Commission report to be released on 19 October 2009

According to the calendar of the National Institute of Military Justice, which can be found here the Cox Commission will release its second report on Monday, 19 October 2009. I have previously discussed the Cox Commission here, here (my recommendations to the Commission) and here.

11 October 2009

"Good Grief Camp" helps military kids cope

Today the San Diego Union Tribune reports here that a program called "Good Grief Camp" run by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, is holding regular weekend seminars around the nation to assist children of military servicemembers cope with a parent's suicide. Last year, the UT reports that, 140 Army soldiers and 42 Marines took their own lives.

For more information here is a link to TAPS' web site and here is a link to the web page on the "Good Grief Camp."

This week in Congress (12 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

House Judiciary Committee, markup on the Wartime Treatment Study Act, H.R. 1425, 1015 hours, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. (Here is a link on Thomas for H.R. 1425.) The hearing will be web cast live here.


Thursday, 15 October 2009


House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, hearing on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Status Report on Post-9/11 GI Bill, 1400 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building

* There may be a markup on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, HR 569 this week by the full House Judiciary Committee. Once a formal announcement is made I'll update this post.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

10 October 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (12 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House of Representatives will next sit on 19 October 2009.

The Senate will next meet on 26 October 2009.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Monday, 12 October 2009

Public Work Committee (Joint), Construction of Housing for Defence on Gordon Estate at McDowell, 1030 hours, Kenron Wavell Services Club, Inc., Hamilton Road, Chermside, QLD.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

09 October 2009

Aussie VA supports World Mental Health Day by making services available for veteran community

On the eve of World Mental Health Day, Minister for Veterans Affairs Alan Griffin (ALP, Bruce, VIC) encouraged members of the veteran community to seek appropriate help for mental issues.

"Some veterans and their family members experience mental health problems as a result of their service. I urge any veteran or veterans' family member who wants more information about improving their mental health to contact the Veterans and Veterans Families Counseling Service on 1800 011 046," said Griffin.

"Even if you are dealing with my Department on compensation or other matters, don't wait to address your mental health issues. VVCS is free, confidential and responsive service that can provide you with the support you need when you need it most." "Almost 50,000 veterans have a mental illness such as PTSD and related conditions is very close to the hearts of those in the ex-service community," Griffin said.

For further information Griffin's press release can be found here.

08 October 2009

America's enemies continue to have greater court access than U.S. troops under NDAA

This evening visiting Yale Law Professor Eugene R. Fidell posted on the Balkinization here that unlawful enemy combatants of the United States will continue to enjoy greater access to America's courts than that of U.S. servicemembers under the conference version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, H.R. 2647. A Thomas link to H.R. 2647 is here.

It's nice to know that lawmakers in Washington are more concerned about the due process rights of unlawful enemy combatants than that of U.S. servicemembers. (Obviously, I'm being extremely sarcastic.)

It's high time that Congress focus on the due process rights of those U.S. citizens that serve in uniform to protect and defend our democratic way of life. Congress should swiftly pass either H.R. 569 or S. 357.

07 October 2009

U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs seeking assistance of nation's financial institutions in cashing emergency educational payments

I've previously discussed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issuing advanced educational benefit payments to veteran-students here. The VA is now soliciting the support of local and national banks to honor and cash these emergency checks written to veteran-students. A VA press release indicates that in many cases the checks are handwritten and could pose concerns of fraud from banks. Therefore, VA has established the following special customer service call-in numbers for banks to verify the validity of any US Bank check brought to them by a veteran. The number is 1-800-827-2166.

06 October 2009

U.S. House Judiciary Committee to markup military medical accountability bill

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee announced today that it will markup the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009, H.R. 1478, tomorrow at 1330 hours (U.S. Eastern Time), in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. The markup will be available on a live webcast here.

H.R. 1478 would amend the Federal Tort Claims Act to permit claims for damages brought against the Government for personal injury or death of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces arising from negligence or a wrongful act or omission in the performance of medical, dental, or related health care functions which are provided by a person acting within the scope of their employment or at the direction of the Government within the United States.

The bill, if passed, would also make it inapplicable to any claim arising out of the combatant activities of U.S. Armed Forces during time of armed conflict.

04 October 2009

This week in Congress (5 October 2009) . . .

[UPDATED] The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

House Judiciary Committee, markups on the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009, H.R. 1478 and Wartime Treatment Study Act, H.R. 1425, 1330 hours, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. (Here are links on Thomas for H.R. 1478 and H.R. 1425.)

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, hearing on Implications of the Department of Veterans Affairs' PTSD Rule-Making, 1400 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, hearing on Veteran Affairs/Department of Defense Response to Certain Military Exposures, 0930 hours, SD-562

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, hearing on H.R. 761, H.R. 2243, H.R. 3485, H.R. 3544, and Draft Legislation, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Markup on Pending Legislation, 1300 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (5 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

There are no scheduled hearings in Parliament this week concerning military justice or veterans affairs issues.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Sleep v. Repatriation Commission, [2009] FCA 472, VID516/2009, dismissal of rate of service pension appeal. Today's proceedings: Directions.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

02 October 2009

Minister of Veterans' Affairs makes statement on Rex Crane fraud allegations

Today Australian Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin (ALP-Bruce, VIC) made a statement concerning this morning's Sydney Morning Herald article on Rex Crane and allegations that he was not a Prisoner of War or even served in the military. The SMH article can be found here. Later in the morning the SMH ran a second article online which can be found here.

"Personally, I think for anyone to impersonate a prisoner of war is disgusting. It is a betrayal of all values our veterans stand for," said Griffin.

On Thursday the VA referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police for investigation as Crane has been receiving the highest level of service pension since 1988 for claiming he was a POW captured by the Japanese in 1942 at the age of 15 and imprisoned in Singapore's Outram Road jail, the SMH reported today. SMH also reported that Crane lived in Adelaide throughout World War II and never spent a day in a military uniform.

Crane was serving as the federal president of the Prisoners of War Association of Australia. He has also collected over $380,000 (AUD) from the Government in a pension over the years and was permitted to have a VA Gold Card for all medical expenses according to the SMH.

Griffin's statement can be found here.

01 October 2009

Australian Defence Force seeking feedback on military justice system

Today the Australian Defence Force announced it is seeking feedback on the military justice system. The Inspector General of the ADF has commissioned a questionnaire which aims to improve problem areas. The feedback opportunity is open to anyone who has been involved in any capacity in:
  • a Defence Force Discipline matter;
  • the discipline officer scheme;
  • a redress of grievance, or
  • an unacceptable behavior complaint.
Any comments made will be treated in confidence. To participate in the feedback questionnaire go here.

ADF also indicated that the Government is now preparing a permanent judicial solution in which serious service offences will be tried by a court which meets the requirements of Chapter III of the Constitution. In August the High Court of Australia declared recent reforms that established the Australian Military Court in the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, to be invalid.