Today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) announced new legislation designed to curtail hazing in the military and protect servicemen and women from abuses. The legislation comes following the death of Private Danny Chen, an Army soldier from Velázquez's district who suffered mistreatment by members of his unit, while serving in Afghanistan.
"The brave young men and women who volunteer to serve our country deserve respect and honor, not abuse," Velázquez noted. "While we can never bring Danny Chen back, we can at least work to ensure other families do not have to endure similar tragedies in the future."
The bill, H.R.5638, the "Service Member Anti-Hazing Act", takes a multi-prong approach to prevent hazing. With a focus on diversity training and requiring each branch of the military to proactively implement an anti-hazing policy, the bill would make addressing hazing and discrimination a priority.
"It is critical that all military personnel learn from day one of their training that diversity makes us stronger," Velázquez noted. "Education is key to stopping future incidents and ensuring minorities don't suffer from abuse when they volunteer to serve."
In addition to preventing hazing in the future, the bill takes a number of concrete steps that would help those who have been hazing victims. By installing an expedited transfer process for personnel who have suffered hazing, the bill would help ensure victims are able to leave units where they are treated unfairly. In addition, the legislation improves the reporting processes for incidents and requires systematic data collection on the scope of the problem.
"When a young man or woman is suffering from unfair treatment at the hands of their superiors, they need to be able to contact someone for help and, when appropriate, be transferred somewhere safer," Velázquez noted. "It is also important we understand how widespread hazing is in order to develop sound strategies for tackling this problem."
Earlier this year, Velázquez wrote the Department of Defense, requesting a swift and through investigation into the events surrounding Danny Chen's passing. She also was invited to participate in a House Armed Services Committee hearing examining hazing in the Armed Services. Based on that hearing as well as other information pertaining to the Chen case, Velázquez drafted the current bill, which will be officially introduced when the House reconvenes this week