Legal program helps crime victims, witnesses navigate system

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY. Colo. -- The legal system sometimes leaves crime victims and witnesses with a sense of helplessness, but Airmen can rest easier knowing they have dedicated legal support in their corner.

The Victim and Witness Assistance Program is designed to ensure all victims and witnesses of crimes suffering physical, financial or emotional trauma receive the assistance and protection to which they're entitled. 

"It's understandable for victims or witnesses to be frustrated and feel confused about the military justice process, especially if they are unfamiliar with the military" said Tech. Sgt. Paige Frye, the Air Force Academy's VWAP coordinator. "The staff judge advocate would like people to know the system does care about victims and witnesses and their rights. The VWAP is there to show someone care and victims do have certain rights."

The staff judge advocate office is the focal point of VWAP support, the VWAP Coordinator. Assistance may include information about restitution or other relief to which a victim or witness may be entitled and how to obtain relief.

The following information is available upon request: investigation status, pre-trial status of the accused, preferral of charges, acceptance of a guilty plea or announcement of findings, the sentence imposed and the date the accused becomes eligible for release from confinement or parole, if applicable. 

The VWAP Coordinator can also inform victims' or witnesses' employers of reasons for absence from work and if there's financial strain, explain the reasons to creditors. The coordinator works closely with experts from medical, security forces, family support and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The Staff Judge Advocate office is primarily responsible for implementing the program but relies on assistance from other Air Force and outside agencies to provide services such as personal protection, social services, and information about private treatment or support programs. Each outside agency involved typically has a VWAP representative, with whom the Academy's VWAP Coordinator works to ensure proper service and attention is given to participants of their programs.

Call the Academy's VWAP Coordinator at 333-3920 for more information.