House Passes Velazquez Military Hazing Proposal
Washington, DC – An amendment authored by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N) to curb hazing in the United States Armed Forces was approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives. The measure, which passed as part of the Department of Defense Authorization bill, would create an oversight panel comprised of heads of the military branches, as well as advocates from the minority, women and LGBT communities.
“The diversity of the young men and women who serve in our Armed Forces is one of our military’s greatest strengths,” Velázquez said. “By ensuring there is outreach to our minority communities, we can prevent future incidents of hazing and protect service members from abuse.”
Under Velázquez’s amendment, a Military Hazing Prevention Oversight Panel would develop recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on how to eliminate hazing in the military. The panel will include input from community and minority organizations, ensuring diversity education is a priority.
“As anti-hazing policies are developed, it is critical that the minority community has a voice in the discussion,” Velázquez added. “By listening to minority advocates, we can ensure the military’s policies foster diversity and respect for differences among soldiers.”
Velázquez’s amendment was authored in response to the circumstances surrounding the death of Danny Chen, an Army Private who died in Afghanistan in 2011 after enduring harassment and beatings from members of his unit. Court records and media reports suggest that much of Chen’s abuse was race based, with his superiors and fellow soldiers often making disparaging remarks about Chen’s ethnicity.
“The military needs a proactive approach in fostering diversity and taking a zero-tolerance approach to hazing,” Velázquez added. “While we can’t bring Danny Chen back, we can take steps to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”
Hazing and suicide continue to be major issues affecting Armed Forces personnel. Suicides in 2012 broke record levels and media reports suggest incidents of hazing occur frequently. The Department of Defense Authorization bill and Velázquez’s amendment will now be considered in the Senate before being sent to the President to be signed into law.