Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bill to Help Military Sexual Harassment Victims to Get Disability Benefits Moves Forward

A few weeks after two Democratic legislators in the U.S. Congress first introduced the bill that would help military sexual harassment victims to get disability benefits, a slightly revised version of the same has finally earned a go signal from the Congress. Thus, it is now making its way through the Senate.

Early this year, the said bill that was named after the Navy veteran who was left homeless and mentally ill after being repeatedly raped way back in 1987 by her supervisor was initially introduced by Sen. John Tester D-Mont. and Rep. Chellie Pingree. The said bill called the Ruth Moore Act, aims to make it easier for sexual assault victim veterans to prove that their mental health problems were as a result of sexual harassments while in service with the U.S. military.

The said effort is in light of the overly-high threshold for the survivors that make it impossible for them to be seen as eligible for disability benefits. In fact, out of three claims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from Military Sexual Trauma (MST), only one has been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) between 2008 and 2010.

Under the original proposal, it was noted that veterans who claimed they were victims of military-related sexual trauma would have their claims accepted if a mental health professional attested that their condition is consistent with sexual trauma and their claims are not opposed by evidence.

Now, the new version of the bill that is making its way through the Senate House made it clear that supporting documents like the official record of assault and medical reports are no longer required. The survivor’s testimony could now be enough as solid evidence. Also, the legislation seeks to require anyone found guilty of a sex-related crime to receive a punishment that includes but not limited to a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.

Apparently, the bill aims to ensure that the survivors who have suffered such horrific crime must be completely confident that the VA will provide them with care, assistance and support they deserve, lauded by a Los Angeles permanent disability lawyer.

So far, the bill is scheduled to be reviewed today, June 12 on a defense policy bill that eliminate the power of military commanders to overturn convictions in rape and assault cases.