Ruth Moore Act provision clears important legislative step
Passes today in package of veterans legislation; bill now heads to Senate
Washington, DC, December 6, 2016
Tags: Military Sexual Trauma
The House today passed a key provision from the Ruth Moore Act, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s legislation to help survivors of military sexual trauma obtain disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Reporting language was included in a larger package of veterans-related legislation, the bipartisan Veterans Healthcare and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016, which is likely to receive a vote in the Senate.
“I’m grateful that language from the Ruth Moore Act was included in this bill, and I hope the Senate takes swift action on the legislation. It will provide the information we need to make sure the VA follows through on its promises to fairly treat our veterans,” Pingree said. “But there is more to be done. I will continue pushing the VA and Congress to ease the burdensome standards that survivors of military sexual assault must meet to receive benefits.”
Congresswoman Pingree has long championed helping survivors of military sexual trauma obtain disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill to make these changes—the Ruth Moore Act—is named for a Maine veteran who had to fight for 23 years to get VA compensation for disabilities caused by being raped during her time in the military.
The legislative language passed today calls on the VA to annually report to Congress a range of information related to claims of military sexual trauma. That information would include: the number of claims denied and approved; the most common reasons for claim denials; and the number of pending claims and those on appeal.
Pingree’s bill has passed the Republican-controlled House before—the last time in 2015—but has not been voted on in the Senate. Developed by members of both chambers, the Veterans Healthcare and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016 has bipartisan support and is likely to come for a vote in the Senate.
Congresswoman Pingree's full floor remarks:
Thank you Mr. Speaker, and I thank the gentleman for yielding. I want to thank Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Takano for their work on this bill. I think it’s clear this committee is truly working for our nation’s veterans.
I’m grateful that language from the Ruth Moore Act was included in this bill. It’s an important step in making sure the VA follows through on its promises to fairly treat our veterans.
Mr. Speaker, almost every day I hear from another veteran who is the survivor of military sexual trauma—or MST.
These are men and women of all ages, from every branch of the service. They include veterans from World War II to the war in Afghanistan and every era in between.
Those assaults leave indelible marks on their lives in the form of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and many other conditions. But despite some progress at the VA on their claims, too many are denied the disability benefits they have earned.
I’m glad the Defense Department and the VA have increased training and prevention efforts around rape and harassment, but let me be clear—this problem is NOT fixed.
I’d like to close by talking for a minute about a very brave woman—Ruth Moore, a Maine veteran and my bill’s namesake. Ruth fought for 23 years before she was finally given the benefits we owed her.
There are thousands and thousands of Ruth Moores out there, who have been fighting for their benefits for years or even decades. We can and must do better. This issue is too important to ignore, and this provision ensures that the VA and survivors know Congress is watching.
I’m so glad this language from my bill was included in this legislation, and I yield back my time.