By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,431)
A bill aimed at making it easier for veterans who survive military sexual assault to get benefits was unanimously passed in the U.S. House today. The legislation called the Ruth Moore Act enjoyed broad bipartisan support and is the first legislation addressing the issue of military sexual assault to pass in this Congress. The bill was written by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
“The Ruth Moore Act will make a big difference in the lives of tens of thousands of veterans who are survivors of sexual assult in the military and are struggling to get the benefits they are owed Almost every day we hear from another veteran who is fighting for their benefits and has been rerpeatedly turned down because they are being held to an unreasonably high standard of proof,” Pingree said after the vote.
Pingree’s bill pushes the VA to make a policy change that would make it easier for veterans to qualify for benefits. Under Pingree’s proposal, veterans would only have to show a medical diagnosis of a mental health condition and a link between an assault and that mental health condition-similar to standards applied to veterans who file claims for combat-related PTSD.
“Veterans who have suffered this horrific crime must be completely confident the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide the care, asssistance and support these victims deserve. VA’s approach to mililtary sexual trauma claims requires immediate and thoughtful review and that is precisely what the Ruth Moore Act aims to ensure. I”m proud to join Rep. Pingree, Ranking Member Michaud and a bipartisan majority of Congress in supporthing this bill,” said Republican Congressman Jeff Miller, the Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The bill is named for Ruth Moore, a Maine veteran who fought for 23 years for disabiity benefits after her sexual assault.
“This is an incredibly important day for the thousands and thousands of veterans who have been fighting for the benefits they are owed,” Moore said. “Since this bill was introduced I’ve heard from over 15,000 veterans who have been in the same situation as me. This bill will change their lives.”
Similar legislation sponsored by Senator Jon Tester is scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs next week.