The GI Rights Network is coalition of nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations that provide free and confidential information to United States military servicemembers, veterans, and their families. Most of the work of the Network is done through the GI Rights Hotline, but the Network also provides email counseling and live in-person counseling in some locales. The Network also maintains a website with easy access to information about discharges, military regulations, GI rights, and other organizations; all information is available in both English and Spanish.
GI Rights Hotline
The Network provides non-directive counseling to callers, with a particular focus on discharges and filing grievances. Counselors do not provide legal advice, but can assist callers in finding lawyers in their area who can give them appropriate advice.
Calls to the official national Hotline number 877-447-4487 are routed to different "nodes" of the network based on the area code of the caller. Hotline counselors come from a variety of backgrounds and include veterans, mental health workers and attorneys, but most counselors are not attorneys and do not provide legal advice.
The Network began in 1994 as a coalition of several organizations committed to peace and non-violence activism. The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors served as the agent for the coalition for several years by managing the coalition's website, administering the national toll free phone number, and providing funding for a national coordinator for the Network.
In the fall of 2006, the Network members selected an "Advisory Council" to move the Network from an unincorporated association to a democratically operated corporation. The Network was incorporated in California in 2008. The Network member organizations adopted bylaws and elected a board of directors in 2009.
In the news
In Harper's Magazine March 2005 Kathy Dobie's cover story "AWOL in America" cites the GI Rights Network as "a national referral and counseling service for military personnel," and uses its counselors as sources for the story. "On August 23, 2004, I interviewed Robert Dove, a burly, bearded Quaker, in the Boston offices of the American Friends Service Committee, one of the groups involved with the hot line. Dove told me of getting frantic calls from the parents of recruits, and of recruits who are so appalled by basic training that they “can’t eat, they literally vomit every time they put a spoon to their mouths, they’re having nightmares and wetting their beds.”
In a Chicago Public Radio Interview "Going AWOL – A Hotline that Helps GIs Consider Their Options," (12-12-06) GI Rights counselor, Steve Woolford, explains the reasons why many servicemen and women go AWOL form military service.
In her second place Hearst Journalism Award Winning features piece "Sincere Disapproval" author Leah Lohse references the GI Rights Network for its expertise in dealing with conscientious objection. The story gives a view into the beliefs and struggles of one particular conscientious objector.
A USA Today story on 4/1/2009, "Army investigating unfit soldiers sent to war," cited The GI Rights Hotline for assisting servicemembers who were being deployed with disabilities and other medical problems.
[Army Sgt. Jesse] Raymo said he and others had exhausted their efforts to complain to supervisors and felt their only recourse was working with the GI Rights Hotline to draft a petition outlining their claims of mistreatment to send to members of Congress. He said more than 200 signatures have been gathered, most of them from civilians, and another petition signing event is being planned.
Current Network Membership
Current members and associate members of the Network include (this list includes groups who do not get "routed" calls from the Network but do provide other essential services to the Network as a whole):
- Humboldt Committee for Conscientious Objectors (Arcata, CA)
- North County San Diego GI Rights Hotline, (Carlsbad, CA)
- San Diego Military Counseling Project
- Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild
- American Friends Service Committee (San Francisco, CA)
- Resource Center For Nonviolence (Santa Cruz, CA)
- Center on Conscience & War (CCW)
- Military Counseling Network (Bammental, Germany)
- Catholic Peace Fellowship
- American Friends Service Committee-North East Regional Office, (Cambridge, MA)
- Quaker House Of Fayetteville, NC
- War Resisters League
- Oklahoma GI Rights Hotline (Oklahoma City, OK)
- Seattle Draft And Military Counseling Center (Seattle, WA)
- New Mexico GI Rights Hotline (Albuquerque, NM)
- Flint Hills GI Rights Hotline (Manhattan, KS)
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