Tara, a member of the Illinois National Guard, was declared AWOL when she fled her abusive boyfriend to protect her daughter, Kelby. She obtained an Order of Protection against her boyfriend when he choked her in front of Kelby, but the violence escalated and Tara and Kelby fled to Wisconsin. They hid in Wisconsin for four months, which casued Tara to miss a few training drills with her National Guard unit. Finally, the state began to prosecute her abuser. When Tara was in town to testify against him, he threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of her mother’s house and poured gasoline over her truck. Again, Tara fled with Kelby, but returned the day the abuser was apprehended. The following day, Tara reported for drills with her unit.
Even though she had notified her commanding officers of the extreme domestic violence, and even though she returned to duty as soon as the threat subsided, the National Guard coded Tara as AWOL for the four months she’d been in hiding in Wisconsin. The AWOL coding cut off her access to the GI benefits she was already using in school, and caused her to lose her $20,000 enlistment bonus. The Guard told her there was no way to fight this charge.
That’s when Tara came to LAF. Margaret Kuzma intervened, and took the matter up the chain of command. During the case, Margaret also connected Tara with other LAF services, including our Consumer Practice Group for help with a bankruptcy, and our social worker for domestic violence services for herself and Kelby. In the end, LAF was able to reverse the AWOL classification, reclaim Tara’s signing bonus, reinstate her benefits, and ensure her an Honorable Discharge. Tara’s life is back in her own hands, now that she is receiving the benefits she deserves for serving her country.
You can help support clients like Tara by supporting LAF through this year’s Veterans Charity Challenge 2. The Challenge, which begins this week and runs through July, is a fundraising competition where organizations supporting America’s Heroes compete to raise the most money with the top teams winning cash prizes! Please consider giving today.