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In the News

Sunday, August 21, 2005

California Moving Protections For Military While Congress Lags Behind

By Erik Espe
(Via MensNewsDaily.com)

When men and women in the armed services are shipped overseas to face possible death in Iraq, they find themselves unable to fight another battle: One for their kids back home.

Divorced parents who are called to serve their country in Iraq often find themselves sued by vindictive or greedy ex-spouses in family court for increases in child support or for custody of their children. For members of the Reserves and National Guard, the call to be shipped to the firing lines of Iraq -- and lose high-paying jobs back home -- can come so quick that they don’t have time to petition courts for decreases in child support.

It’s an inhuman thought: When a soldier is sent to potentially face death in Iraq, an ex-spouse takes advantage of the situation to file suit for custody of the children, when they’re in no position to fight in court. But it happens all the time, according to Michael Robinson, a lobbyist on family court issues in California.

The issues has been reported on by conservative columnists Phyllis Schlafly, Wendy McElroy, Dianna Thompson and radio show host Glenn Sacks. Yet little has been done to correct the problem.

Until now, in California, where Robinson has succeeded in leading a bill through the California Assembly and Senate, and almost certain signing by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill would give relief to soldiers who find themselves hit with family court issues while they are serving in the Middle East.

To date, Missouri has been the only state to pass a law to protect Reservists and Guard Members from child support arrears, as they go from high-paying civilian jobs to lower pay on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under family court law, child support orders aren’t reduced unless the obligor (usually the dad who is under a support order) files for a modification of the order. This can take months.

But Reservists and Guardsmen sent to Iraq don’t have months to prepare for the move (or the lower-paying job they will have on the front lines). Unable to change their orders until they get back a year or more later, they sometimes return home to face arrest for child support they can’t afford to pay. Or they discover they no longer have any access to their children, because of a family court hearing initiated by a vindictive ex-spouse, one they were unable to attend while they fought for their country.

Legislation to protect troops from vindictive or greedy ex-spouses was introduced two years in a row in Illinois, failing both times. There is also legislation pending in New York that appears to be headed for defeat, and Michigan was denied having a bill even being introduced this year.

But things are surprisingly much different in supposedly left-leaning California.

The bill Robinson helped shepherd, SB 1082, was authored by Senators Bill Morrow and Denise Ducheny, along with 28 co-authors from both houses. The bill enjoys bi-partisan support. It passed out of every committee and the senate floor by unanimous consent, with only the Assembly floor vote remaining. The bill is much more comprehensive in its protection than any other legislative attempt in that it also protects individuals with current custody orders in addition to fair child support protection that does not punish an activated or deployed parent who can no longer exercise their parenting time.

In April 2004, Robinson worked with Stan Diorio, the former chief of staff for Assemblyman Rod Wright, to shop the concept of the legislation around the state capitol. The election of Gov. Schwarzenegger gave the bill greater hope of passage, because in the past Gov. Gray Davis had been strictly opposed to any legislation that gave any kind of relief to child support obligors. (Davis even vetoed legislation that would have benefited support obligors who have been falsely identified as fathers of children that were not biologically theirs), which also affected many military members. Robinson and Diorio were successful in 2004 when Gov. Schwarzenegger signed AB 252 Jackson/Ashburn, Paternity Fraud into law.

According to Robinson and Diorio, the bill could have been even more comprehensive had it not been for problems with federal law that restrict the extent of protection a state can offer. Because of the Bradley Amendment, a federal law designed to strengthen the child support system, a child support order can only be modified retroactively to the date of a filing of a petition. Should a Guard Member or Reservist with a child support order not be able to file a petition for a reduction in their monthly child support amount, before they are deployed (and have their pay lowered as servicemen forced to leave jobs back home), they can return with arrearages, penalties and interest that cannot be forgiven.

In one famous case from the first Gulf War, a hero returned home after being held hostage, and was thrown in jail because he couldn’t pay child support while he was being held by terrorists in the Middle East.

The average activation and deployment time is 7-10 days in California, with some as short as 72 hours. Robinson, Diorio and others fear that some members of the Armed Forces will still fall through the cracks. California has traditionally been the trendsetter in family law policy, and Robinson and Diorio are hoping that SB 1082 will be no different. They hope to drive the bill nationally.

With approximately 110,000 Guard Members and Reservists in California alone, there is no question about the need to address this across the country and insist that Congress move to amend federal laws that affect our family law courts. Robinson has brought the problems facing military parents and spouses to the attention of Congressmen Duncan Hunter and Wally Herger, both chairs of key committees in the position to move to correct the problems, in addition to others including the Senate members. Herger has agreed to hold hearings on amending Bradley, according to Robinson.

SB 1082 wasn’t the only bill introduced in California to address military family law problems. Assemblyman Ray Haynes had introduced additional legislation: AB 498, a child support bill, and AB 265, a child custody bill, Haynes is also a co-author on SB 1082. Haynes had offered his bill AB 265 child custody for an amendment to correct another egregious problem facing military parents, their children being hijacked to other countries after a parent is deployed. One such case that has been reported on is that of Lt Gary S who had his son hijacked to Israel after he was deployed to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. Had it not been for a deceiving spouse and lapses in law Gary wouldn’t be out over $100,000.00 in legal cost fighting his case both here and in the Israeli courts. There are 3 individuals in Gary’s unit alone who have been left unprotected.

According to Robinson, all efforts were made to try and amend AB 265 to correct the problem and assure that jurisdiction of children in custody matters would remain within the United States and preferably the state, which a member is deployed from as a resident. Robinson say’s that after looking at all avenues to correct it at the state level, it was determined that even if a bill was passed it could very well cause (conflicts in laws) jurisdictional problems between California and other states without correcting the problem in federal law.

Robinson and other supporters of the legislation are troubled the problem isn’t being addressed in other parts of the country at the level it is in California.

“These men and women in our military are going into harm’s way to cover our backs and the least we can do is cover theirs,” Robinson says. “There is no danger for us to do so. For them, it’s their life at stake. We can’t let special interests get in the way, or allow politics to dictate or impede elected officials at all levels from doing the right thing. We have to act now, not later.”

To Robinson, the family law issue may even be having an impact on military enlistment. There is nothing quite as demoralizing as enlisting, then having a child support order hiked up or losing your children while you’re serving your country overseas.


Monday, January 8, 2001

U.S. government breaks its promise of gender equality

(Via the Daily Bruin, University of California, Los Angeles)

MEN: Female health care receives precedence, more funding than male needs

By Marc Angelucci
Angelucci is a law student and the co-founder of MENS (Men Enabling New Solutions). He invites comments at angelucc@2000.law.ucla.edu.

As we break our new year resolutions regarding our health long before Superbowl Sunday, it sometimes helps to know others are also breaking them with regard to their own health. But did you know the U.S. government routinely breaks its own commitment to your health, especially if you're a male?

Men in the United States live an average of six years less than women and have a higher death rate for each of the top 10 leading causes of death. They are twice as likely as women to be receiving no regular health care (23.2 percent vs. 11.9 percent, respectively), and men under 65 are less likely than women to even have health insurance with which they can receive such care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Yet, the National Institute of Health has dismally failed to live up to its commitment to gender equality in health funding that it made in the Revitalization Act of 1993. Why? Because of feminist-driven demands to remedy years of illusory inequalities.

For example, in 1990, the Congressional Women's Caucus went wild over a report showing that under 14 percent of NIH funds went to female-specific illnesses, even though only 7 percent of the funds went to male-specific illnesses.

NIH caved in, forming an Office of Women's Health without an equivalent Office of Men's Health, and claimed it was "in response to a report by the U.S. General Accounting Office ... that women were routinely excluded from medical research supported by the NIH."

A review of the GAO report reveals no such statement, other than an anecdotal example of an all-male study and a subsequent conclusion that there is no readily-accessible data on NIH study demographics. In fact, Dr. Sally Satel of Yale University, national syndicate Cathy Young, and others have recently shown this claim to be false.

Even the prestigious Institute of Medicine recently admitted that the "literature is inconclusive about whether women have been excluded or importantly underrepresneted in clinical trials," (New England Journal of Medicine, 1999; 341).

Yet politicians still make this false claim to justify the systematic neglect of men's health, a neglect that is harming more and more men and their loved ones every year.

In 1999, female-specific health received 15.5 percent of NIH funds while male-specific health received 6.4 percent. Only 37.1 percent of participants in extramural research were men (down from 45 percent in 1994), and NIH had 740 female-only studies but only 244 male-only studies in progress, according to the General Accounting Office.

The claim that women were significantly underrepresented can be debunked with a simple search using Medline, the best-known database for published medical research (http://igm.nlm.nih.gov/). A search of the period 1966-1990 for clinical trials (a more rigorous type of research than case reports) on leading causes of death and other conditions commonly researched at NIH (for which at least five trials are reported) shows that 753 trials included men and 854 included women.

Of the diseases that commonly affect both sexes, the only ones with a significantly higher number of male subjects were heart attacks (59 men, 37 women) and heart disease (137 men, 78 women). As Dr. Ed Bartlett of Men's Health America explains, it makes scientific sense to first study a population that is more commonly affected, and men under 65 are three times more likely to have heart attacks than women.

In fact, during the same period, men were underrepresented as subjects in cancer-related trials, even though they suffer from cancer at higher rates than women (Boston Globe, Nov. 15, 2000).

The Medline search showing equal representation is supported by other data as well. For example, of the 293 clinical studies in the 1979 NIH Inventory of Clinical Trials, 91 percent included both men and women, while the rest consisted of 12 male-only and 12 female-only studies. (Women and Health Research, Vol. I, 1994). But as activists began claiming women were underrepresented, things worsened for men, and by 1997, there were 203 women-only studies but only 90 men-only studies. (Applied Clinical Trials 1997; 6).

These are not strictly examining female-only conditions. A list of the 1997 studies reveals hundreds of female-only studies on things commonly affecting men, such as AIDS, cancer prevention, chronic lung disease and Alzheimer's.

But the anti-male bias is most blaring when it comes to prostate and breast cancer. While the yearly diagnoses and deaths are about equal, the National Cancer Institute spent $92.7 million on breast cancer but only $13.8 million on prostate research in 1991. Then, by 1999, breast cancer funds jumped to $366 million while prostate cancer remained at a measly $96 million (www.nci.nih.gov/public/factbk97/varican.htm).

It gets worse. A September 1997 report in Men's Health shows the Department of Defense spent $455 million on breast cancer but only $20 million on prostate cancer. And, according to the American Foundation of Urologic Disease, the government overall spends $3,000 per breast cancer diagnosis and $12,000 per death in the U.S. (men make 1 percent of patients) while only spending $250 per prostate cancer diagnosis and $2,000 per death.

This is not, as some claim, a remediation of past bias. From 1981 to 1991 (before nationwide breast cancer activism), NCI spent $658 million on breast cancer but only $113 million on prostate cancer.

How do they get away with these lies and hurt so many men and their loved ones? As national syndicate Cathy Young points out, the failure of men and women to speak up against anti-male bias and distortions about health care inequalities (and other issues) gave activists a "free ride" in the media for years.

What can you do? Write your reps and support the Men's Health Act (SB 2925), which will create a badly-needed Office of Men's Health. Demand that UCLA offer men's studies courses, like that taught by Dr. Martin Fiebert at Cal State Long Beach, to help men learn about themselves apart from role-enforcing history books and feminist distortions about them. Read Warren Farrell (warrenfarrell.com), and keep informed with frequent visits to www.mensactivism.org.

Meanwhile, don't follow our government's example � fulfill your resolutions. Make your amends. Eat your veggies. And be sure to rinse them down with some good Chianti. To your health, of course.