Military vets who have been the victim of sexual assault may soon find it easier to obtain disability benefits for any resulting mental health conditions. A new bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine seeks to help former military personnel who have been victims of sexual assault get the disability benefits that they need and deserve.
Under the bill – titled the Ruth Moore Act after a Navy Veteran who was left homeless and depressed after she was repeatedly raped in 1987 by her supervisor – seeks to make it easier for veterans to prove that their mental health condition was the result of sexual assault that occurred while they were serving with the U.S. military.
Under the proposed legislation, detailed documentation such as an official record of the assault and medical reports would no longer be required. Instead, claims would be accepted if a mental health professional confirms that the claimant’s mental condition is consistent with those conditions related to sexual assault and that the claims are not contradicted by other evidence.
According to this Huffington Post article, the Defense Department reports that as many as one in three servicewomen report having been sexually assaulted. In 2011 alone, there were 3,192 reported sexual assaults with both female and male victims, but the Pentagon estimates that more than 86 percent of sexual assault incidents in the military are never reported.
In a statement to the Huffington Post, Anu Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and a former Marine Corps captain, said: “Survivors of military sexual assault and sexual harassment are betrayed twice: first by the military who all too often fails to support the victim, and by the VA, which has for years systematically rejected MST [military sexual trauma] disability claims based on this unequal and unfair regulation.”
The Government Accountability Office has said that immediate action is needed to correct the lack of medical and mental health care for victims of sexual assault. According to SWAN, the VA only approves one in three claims for post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from military sexual trauma.
The Chicago disability attorneys at Ankin Law Office, LLC are devoted to helping persons with disabling medical conditions, including mental health conditions, to obtain the disability benefits to which they are entitled. To learn more, contact our office at (800) 442-6546 to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate Chicago disability lawyers.