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National security officials agree to Pingree's request to modify security questionnaire

Victims of sexual assault in the military won't have to disclose counseling

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said today that the Director of National Intelligence has agreed to her request to change a national security questionnaire to protect victims of military sexual assault.

Pingree first wrote to Director of National Intelligence (DNI)James Clapper in November of 2011 about Question 21 on the questionnaire, which asks applicants if they have ever received counseling. Currently, military personnel who have received treatment for combat-related PTSD can answer "no." Pingree asked Clapper to create the same exemption for victims of sexual assault in the military.

"Requiring victims of sexual assault to declare that they've been receiving counseling on this questionnaire has been discouraging them from getting the treatment they need. I'm glad that DNI Clapper has listened to our concerns," Pingree said.

"I would like to thank Congresswoman Pingree for her oversight and support of victims of sexual assault who may benefit from mental health treatment, but may not have otherwise sought treatment out of concern for their career or security clearance," said Director Clapper. "Through our efforts, victims of sexual assault will be encouraged to seek the mental health services they may needwhile feeling safe that their privacy protections are strictly enforced."

Pingree said she regularly hears from active duty personnel around the world who have suffered a military sexual assault but are not getting the counseling they need because they don't want to reveal it on the security questionnaire.

"A security clearance is critical to many military careers and having to reveal counseling for sexual assault forces personnel to feellike they have to choose between their mental health and their careers," Pingree said.

Pingree and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas wrote to Clapper again last month, asking again for a modification to the question. Pingree said the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) has also been a key player in the push to get the question changed.

"My colleagues—Congresswoman Tsongas and Senator Tester—and the folks at SWAN have been critical in getting the Director of National Intelligence to change Question 21."

Read the interim guidance on Question_21 here (pdf)

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