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Military Confronts Rampant Alcohol Abuse

By Greg T. Rinckey

More Service Members in Need of Counseling, Effective Legal Representation

Military leaders are stepping up efforts to address service members’ alcohol abuse problems, which have spread throughout the armed forces during years of exposure to stressful training and combat environments.

According to two reports published this August, the military is pushing to better steer service members with drinking problems to substance abuse counseling programs. Army Times reported the Army is looking to add 130 substance abuse counselors to its force of 400 to help evaluate and counsel active duty Soldiers, veterans, their families, and eligible civilian employees. Marine Times reported that the Marine Corps’ inspector general is investigating whether commands are following alcohol abuse policies, particularly those relating to the required screening of Marines caught driving under the influence (DUI).

The military is taking these steps to help service members because of dire circumstances. Alcohol has been linked to 29 percent of Soldier suicides since 2005, according to the Army’s 2010 Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention Report. In fact, 43 out of every 1,000 Soldiers had an acute alcohol diagnosis between 2006 and 2008 – the highest rate in the armed forces. Between 2001 and 2009, the Army registered 25,640 DUI offenses.

Unfortunately, many service members run into problems with law enforcement personnel over alcohol-related infractions before receiving counseling services. Alcohol-related misconduct can result is serious criminal charges, such as drunken operation of a vehicle in violation of Article 111 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), drunk on duty in violation of Article 112, and disorderly conduct or drunkenness under Article 134. There are also potential administrative consequences to alcohol-related misconduct.  For example, Army Regulation 600-85 requires the initiation of administrative separation procedures for Soldiers who are involved in two serious alcohol-related incidents over a 12-month period. Baring any intervention from the first general officer in the chain of command, Soldiers twice convicted of DUI will be separated.

Service members facing alcohol-related charges should immediately contact a military law attorney. Depending on the circumstances, there could be potential defenses to the charges.  Additionally, an attorney can assist a service member in presenting mitigating factors to help get penalties reduced. For instance, alcoholism or a lack of access to substance abuse counseling programs may be mitigating factors.

Greg T. Rinckey, a former military and federal attorney, is managing partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. He concentrates his practice on military law, federal employment and discrimination litigation and national security clearance mitigation. He can be reached at grinckey@fedattorney.com.

 

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