There are just over two million men and women in the uniformed services of the United States. By voluntarily joining, all have signaled that they are prepared to risk their lives to defend their country. They do not appear at first blush to be a vulnerable community. Yet their unique situation—predominantly young and financially inexperienced, often relocated or deployed abroad, and sometimes facing inconsistent access to phones and internet—has made them a target for the unscrupulous.
Even as they drape themselves in the American flag, corporations have foreclosed on servicemembers’ family homes, repossessed their cars, scammed their pensions, fired employees called to active duty, and even profited from their life insurance policies when they have been killed. Congress has passed laws to protect the rights of servicemembers and veterans—including the Military Lending Act, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act—but corporations frequently use legal maneuvers like forced arbitration to avoid accountability when they violate these laws.
The injustice to servicemembers and veterans doesn’t stop there. Servicemembers are also being denied the constitutional rights they fight to protect because of a 1950 Supreme Court ruling, known as the Feres doctrine, which mandates that no servicemember can hold the government accountable for negligence or wrongdoing. And veterans who experienced physical or psychological injuries during their service are now battling opioid addictions or are facing severe, sometimes fatal ailments after being exposed to toxic substances.
When our institutions fail to protect the rights of the men and women who make up America’s first line of defense, the civil justice system has proven to be the last line of defense.
See the May 2018 Report: Fighting for Those who Fight for Us