We are frequently asked whether the command can take action against a service member when Family Advocacy Program (FAP) unsubstantiates a claim against the member.
The short answer is yes.
Keep reading for more detail.
Cases involving violence between military family members are difficult and complicated. For very good reasons, the Department of Defense has created several systems to address the issue of domestic violence and family (child) abuse. One of these is the Family Advocacy Program (FAP), which reviews and make determinations about whether or not allegations of domestic abuse are founded.
In a parallel function, and often simultaneously, the military justice system (UCMJ) provides commanders with the ability to punish domestic violence or abuse committed by servicemembers. These systems operate independently of each other but often overlap. Both can cause significant consequences for a servicemember: A substantiated FAP allegation can potentially hurt a member’s security clearance or interfere with a military career in other ways, and UCMJ action can cause loss of rank, pay, job, or even freedom and leave the member with a permanent criminal conviction.
Having to fight against false allegations of domestic abuse isn’t easy and getting an agency like FAP to see the truth can be an uphill battle. For those who succeed in that daunting effort, an ugly surprise might be waiting afterwards. More than one servicemember has come to us confused and frustrated because after being told by FAP that the allegations against them were unsubstantiated, they were presented with an Article 15, a reprimand, or even court-martial charges by their commander. Unfortunately, success in the FAP process has no impact on the command’s ability to bring criminal charges or adverse action against an individual servicemember. The command is not barred from taking action, no matter what FAP determined in its process. Even though both FAP in the command are part of the military, they have independent authorities and standards for how they do what they do.
Anyone going through a FAP review based on allegations of abuse or domestic violence, you need to keep in mind that a second shoe may drop. It would be wise for you to be proactive: servicemembers under investigation need to understand what’s happening and what they can and can’t do to help their situation. It absolutely is in your best interest to get in touch with a qualified military defense counsel. We strongly advise you to not wait for the Article 15, reprimand, or even charge sheet to show up.
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