By Staff Sgt. Wallace Bonner
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office
The Army provides many services to assist Army Families suffering from domestic violence.
One such service is the Transitional Compensation Program.
According to Army Regulation 680-1, Congress approved the entitlement to reduce a victim’s reluctance of reporting domestic violence and child abuse. The program provides payments, medical benefits and commissary and exchange privileges to Family members of Soldiers who are involuntarily separated for domestic violence or child abuse.
“A lot of times, spouses and Families, single income Families, don’t leave domestic violence because the thought of trying to financially support themselves is daunting,” said Mariana Graupmann, victim advocate, Army Community Service. “The program provides a viable income for Families trying to escape from domestic violence.”
The program also benefits the Army as a whole, not just the victims.
“Any program that encourages spouses to come forward and report problems within the Army Family is a positive thing,” said 1st Sgt. David Chaney, senior enlisted leader, Company B, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “It allows me to identify a potential issue within my unit, so that I can provide preventive training for my Soldiers and work to establish a cultural change to ensure that domestic violence and child abuse are seen as completely unacceptable and incompatible with the professional Soldier ethos.”
The benefits the program provides are straightforward and standardized, regardless of rank or time in service.
“The payment is a straight 36 months, and there is a stipend for the victim and each dependent child,” said Leah Goss, victim advocate, ACS. “The compensation is for both domestic violence and child abuse. Abused Soldiers in a dual-military relationship are also entitled to compensation when abused by their fellow military member.”
While the program provides many benefits to victims of domestic violence or child abuse, there are some important considerations to keep in mind, such as the length of time it takes to resolve criminal charges, and how that affects the processing of the victim’s claim.
“Transitional Compensation paperwork can’t be filed until the chapter paperwork has begun,” said Graupmann. “Commanders wait for the civil process to complete before deciding on a chapter, and it can take up to a year to get a conviction. Also, the payment is only backdated to when the chapter is initiated.”
Once the paperwork has been initiated, it usually takes four-six weeks to process, and another four-six weeks to receive the first payment, said Graupmann.
Claimants also have to be careful about how they carry themselves after they apply for the compensation.
If victims rejoin with their spouses after receiving Transitional Compensation, they can be charged with defrauding the government, said Goss.
“We see reconciliation quite a bit, so the program isn’t for everyone,” she said.
“Any case that we see goes through the victim advocates, the Judge Advocate General’s office, garrison command and the Transitional Compensation approving authority in San Antonio,” said Goss. “There are a lot of eyes on the process; they make sure the cases approved are (eligible).”
There are other issues that can arise when applying for compensation.
“If the Soldier receives a medical evaluation board instead of a chapter, the victim is not eligible for the program,” said Michelle Eller, victim advocate, ACS. “Also, if the spouse was an active participant in the case of child abuse, they would also not be eligible. If the spouse has any prior history of child abuse on record, they can’t apply.”
When Soldiers do get a medical board, victim advocates will assist the victim in other ways.
“If the Soldier isn’t chaptered or court-martialed, we will advocate through their chain of command to get the (Family member) their (Basic Allowance for Housing) and other benefits they are entitled to,” said Goss.
The victim advocates stressed the necessity of keeping a proper perspective on the program.
“It’s a long application process, it’s not something to rely upon; cases get rejected all the time, charges sometimes get dropped,” said Goss. “The program is available, but on very limited and specific circumstances.”
As for the success of the program, it’s hard to measure.
“It’s hard to say if there’s been any increase in reporting due to the program, as the Army has made such a strong push in many different programs combating domestic violence and child abuse,” said Graupmann. “The military culture as a whole has shifted toward being more supportive of child abuse victims. I will say that I have definitely seen an increase in reporting in my six years here.”
While the program’s effectiveness in reporting may be hard to determine, it is definitely appreciated by the victim advocates.
“It’s very rewarding to hear our clients feel thankful and empowered, like they have a new lease on life,” said Eller. “It does me good to see that people can change and not have to live in fear.”