POD + CVLC MST FOIA Litigation

On December 13, 2017, Protect Our Defenders (POD) and the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) filed suit in U.S. District Court to compel the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to release records related to gender disparities within the military justice system, and to the military record correction boards’ handling of cases involving sexual assault and harassment. Read the complaint in Protect Our Defenders et al. v. Department of Defense et al. here.

Discrimination against female service members is widespread: women are dramatically underrepresented within the military and experience disproportionate rates of sexual harassment, assault, and rape (collectively known as “military sexual trauma” or “MST”). Service members who have experienced MST are at increased risk of involvement with the military justice system, and individuals who report MST experience high rates of retaliation that can end their careers.

Despite public outcry, the military has resisted efforts to end the epidemic of sexual assault and retaliation in its ranks, including those from Congress. Accordingly, POD and CVLC submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in the summer of 2017 related to: (1) the Boards of Correction of Military Records’ (BCMRs’) adherence to the Military Whistleblower Protection Act; (2) the prosecution of sexual assault cases in the military justice system; (3) the BCMRs’ disposition of applications with sexual assault elements; and (4) gender disparities in the disposition of claims before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, including those with sexual assault elements.

To date, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs still have not responded to many of POD and CVLC’s requests. However, the few responses received show, for example, that the Navy has failed to collect any data on whether it is complying with a 2015 Congressional mandate requiring that victims of MST have access to civilian prosecutors. Additional data and documents received are posted below.

Complaint: Protect Our Defenders et al. v. Department of Defense et al., 3:17-cv-02073 (D. Conn.)

Press Clippings:
Dianna Cahn, Nonprofit Group Sues DoD over Requests for Sexual Assault Data, Stars & Stripes, December 13, 2017

Diane Orson, Military Facing Scrutiny for Handling of Sexual Assault and Harassment Complaints, WNPR, January 3, 2017

Kyle Rempfer, Veterans Groups Sue the Military for Sexual Assault Records, Military Times, December 16, 2017

Documents Received to Date

July 14 Requests

Air Force
July 6 Requests

July 6 Requests

Marine Corps
July 14 Requests