Navy Victims’ Legal Counsel Program Marks 10th Anniversary

September 29th, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Navy Victims’ Legal Counsel Program (VLCP) founding during a ceremony aboard the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 29. VLCP – which provides legal services to survivors of sexual offenses or domestic violence – was first established during the summer of 2013.

“Throughout the past decade, VLCP has been at the forefront of victim advocacy, tirelessly championing warfighter and civilian clients’ rights at every step in the military justice process, while simultaneously expanding the boundaries of victim legal representation, both in and outside the courtroom,” said Rear Adm. David G. Wilson, commander of Naval Legal Service Command, which oversees the program.

“VLCP has helped the Navy fulfill its promise to protect its most valuable asset – resilient and combat-ready Sailors.”

The birthday ceremony included VLCP team members – judge advocates, civilian legal experts, and yeoman – as well as other JAG Corps personnel, and it featured remarks and a cake cutting. Wilson, alongside VLCP Chief Capt. Daniel Cimmino, reflected upon VLCP’s accomplishments during the past 10 years and the myriad ways the program has advanced Sailor and Fleet readiness.

In August 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed the respective chiefs of the military services to, “establish a victims’ advocacy program best suited for that Service that provides legal advice and representation to the victim throughout the justice process.” The directive focused on addressing the previously unmet legal needs of “eligible sexual assault victims.”

In the following months, the Navy JAG Corps built a strong foundation for VLCP, establishing a clear mission, assembling a cohesive organizational structure, developing sound policies and practices, and acquiring and training personnel with the necessary credentials and capabilities for this critical work.

Originally comprised of only 30 active duty and Reserve attorneys in 23 locations, VLCP has since expanded into a flourishing enterprise of 48 attorneys, 10 yeoman, and six civilian paralegals stationed at 28 locations around the globe, including offices in the U.S., Japan, Guam, Italy, Spain, and Bahrain. In addition to its extensive growth in personnel, VLCP expanded eligibility for its services in 2020 to include victims of domestic violence.

To date, VLCP has provided dedicated legal representation to more than 8,000 clients, which includes active and Reserve service members, retirees, and dependents. It has delivered round-the-clock, free-of-charge assistance, helping victims understand the investigation and military justice processes, guarding their legal rights and interests, and connecting them to resources that advance their recovery.

“The members of the VLCP team – today, and in years past – represent the best of the JAG Corps and the wider Navy. These skilled professionals have been faithful stewards of the law, and helped ensure good order and discipline across the Fleet,” said Cimmino. “I am both proud of how far VLCP has come and excited for the future of this exemplary program.”

During the past decade, VLCP’s accomplishments have been plentiful. The program has revamped Navy instructions related to expedited transfers, administrative separations, and military protective orders. It has closely collaborated with special victims’ counsel from other military branches to reassess and enhance victims’ rights and services across the Department of Defense. VLCP personnel have handled legal issues with national implications, from filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to proposing legislative and policy changes, to advocating widely for the protection of victims’ private medical information.

To learn more about VLCP – including office locations and answers to frequently asked questions – visit www.jag.navy.mil/legal-services/vlc/.