What is Co-Managed Care for Veterans?

Political Activity Rules As They Apply to Military Members

George Washington famously said, "when we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen."

This means that, by and large, members of the military do not lose their rights under the constitution (unless there is a compelling government interest in restricting them.)

However, one of the founding principles of the Republic is the subservience of the military to civilian authority. The military cannot be a tool or ally of any specific political party, philosophy or candidate. If it becomes such, or if it is perceived as such, it leads us down a constitutionally dangerous path.

The Department of Defense, therefore, places definite limits on political activity and activism among members of the military. The most relevant document: DoD Directive 1344.10, dated February 19, 2008.

Here are the restrictions and guidelines:

  • You may express an opinion on policies and candidates, but you cannot do so as a representative of the Armed Forces.
  • You can register to vote and vote.
  • You can encourage others to vote.
  • You can join a political or partisan club or organization, but you cannot attend meetings while in uniform.
  • You can serve as an election official, but again, not in uniform. It also cannot interfere with the performance of your military duties, and you have receive approval from the Secretary concerned.
  • You can sign a petition, as long as it does not obligate you to political activity, you do so as a private citizen and not as a representative of the military.
  • You can write a letter to a newspaper editor, as long as it is not part of an organized letter-writing campaign. If you do write a letter to a newspaper editor or similar outlet, and it identifies you as a member of the military, the letter should clearly state that you do not represent the views of the Department of Defense (or, for Coasties, the Department of Homeland Security.)
  • You may contribute to campaigns and political parties.
  • You can display a bumper sticker on your personal vehicle, but not on government vehicles.
  • You can attend meetings, fundraisers, rallies, conventions or other activities if not in uniform, and when no reasonable observer could infer an official military sponsorship or endorsement from your presence.
  • Active duty members cannot participate in political fundraising activities. But reserve component troops not on active duty can, and military dependents can do so, without restriction.
  • Active duty members cannot use military influence or military authority to influence an election, or to solicit votes.
  • Active duty members cannot speak before partisan groups or at rallies or events for particular causes or candidates – in or out of uniform.
  • Active duty members cannot appear on radio, television or other media as an advocate for any partisan candidate or cause.
  • Active duty members cannot distribute partisan literature, nor conduct opinion surveys for a campaign or political organization.
  • You cannot perform organizational, leadership or clerical duties for a political committee or campaign while on active duty.
  • You cannot solicit or fundraise in federal offices or on military installations.
  • Active duty members cannot ride in or march in a partisan political parade or march.
  • You can’t display a large political sign or banner while on active duty. (Bumper stickers, under the DoD directive, are ok.)
  • Active duty members can’t sell tickets to partisan political events.
  • You cannot attend partisan events in uniform, or as an official representative of the Armed Forces, except as part of a color guard for national conventions of political parties recognized by the Federal Elections Committee or otherwise approved by the Secretary of Defense (or Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, for Coast Guard members).

Additional restrictions apply to commissioned officers. Specifically, commissioned officers cannot use “contemptuous words” concerning the President, the Vice President, the chain of command, Congress in general, or members of Congress while within their specific districts. The use of contemptuous words may constitute a violation of Article 88 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, and offenders shall be punished as a court martial may direct. National Guard officers cannot use contemptuous language toward the governors of their own states.

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