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Rep. Pingree’s Amendment to Support Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Survivors Included in FY 2020 Defense Authorization Bill

Washington, July 12, 2019

An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Congressman Jason Crow (D-Colo.) to support survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) has been approved. The Pingree-Crow amendment requires the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Response coordinators and advocates to advise servicemembers who report sexual trauma of their eligibility for VA services and benefits. Full text of the amendment can be viewed here.

“Sexual assault in the military remains a scourge,” said Pingree. “The trauma caused by sexual assault and harassment does not stop when men and women leave military service. Our government has a legal and moral obligation to help veterans facing this trauma through the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

Pingree has worked to combat military sexual trauma since her earliest days in Congress. She recently reintroduced H.R. 1092, the Servicemember and Veterans’ Empowerment and Support Act to improve benefits for survivors of military sexual trauma. The bill ensures MST survivors diagnosed with mental health disorders other than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)—like anxiety or depression—can use the same relaxed standard of evidence for service connection as those with PTSD to file a disability benefits claim. It also codifies a lower burden of proof to demonstrate an MST event occurred and allows servicemembers to submit evidence of their claim from sources other than DoD records.

The Servicemember and Veterans’ Empowerment and Support Act also references cyber abuse and harassment, requires the VA to have specifically-trained adjudicators to process MST claims, and requires military officials to educate servicemembers about available VA care services for MST survivors at all VA healthcare facilities nationwide.

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