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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Bill Introduced to Help Military Sexual Harassment Victims Get Disability Benefits

A new bill that would help former military personnel who have been victims of sexual assault to get disability benefits was recently introduced by two Democratic legislators in the U.S. Congress.

According to news reports, the new bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine was named after a Navy Veteran who was left homeless and depressed after she was repeatedly raped in 1987 by her supervisor.

The Ruth Moore Act aims to make it easier for veterans to prove that their mental health problems were a result of the sexual assaults during their time of service with the U.S. military.

According to the Service Women’s Action Network, out of three claims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Military Sexual Trauma (MST), only one was approved by the Veterans Affairs (VA) between 2008 and 2010. Supporters of the bill presumed that the overly high threshold for the survivors made them impossible to be seen as eligible for disability benefits.

The bill made it clear that documentations such as the official record of the assault, as well as medical reports, are no longer required. Apparently, the overall intention of the Ruth Moore Act is to prevent many victims to go without treatment because their assault was unreported and mishandled by the military due to lack of documentation. Nevertheless, claims would only be accepted if a mental health professional confirmed that a claimant’s condition is consistent with sexual trauma and that their claims are not contradicted by evidence, the bill noted.

Incidentally, Ruth Moore’s appearance before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last year made a significant change to the existing problems regarding claimants who are survivors of military sexual trauma. During her testimony, Moore’s claimed that she was repeatedly raped by a superior in her first overseas assignment. Unfortunately, when Moore reported the assault to authorities, she was then raped again in retaliation. Thereafter, she attempted to committed suicide. She was subsequently misdiagnosed with borderline personality disorder and was subsequently discharged from the Navy. Since then, she has struggled for disability benefits from the VA due to her misdiagnosis.

Meanwhile, several Los Angeles Social Security Disability Lawyers agreed that the current rules regarding military sexual assaults are only limited. Therefore, they called the newly introduced bill as a powerful tool to fix the broken system.