Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report citing the need for the Department of Defense to increase the quality and quantity of health care services provided to survivors of military sexual assault. The study was a result of a bill authored by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and signed into law in the FY12 National Defense Authorization Act.
The Women's Excellence of Care and Accessibility Review and Evaluation Act (WE CARE Act), authored by Tsongas, directed the Secretary of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review of women-specific health services and treatments for female servicemembers. Implementation of the study was ultimately transferred to the GAO.
The GAO study found that the Defense Department has taken steps to better the quality of health care provided to military servicewomen, but that it must better address the health care needs of sexual assault survivors during deployment. A second report released by the GAO today reveals that progress has been made by the DoD to meet the health care needs of servicewomen domestically.
Congresswoman Tsongas released the following statement:
"The growing number of women in the military, along with Secretary Panetta's lifting of the ban on women in combat, makes it clear that we must guarantee our servicewomen have access to all of their health needs while serving our nation here at home or overseas.
"The WE CARE legislation was introduced to ensure that no gaps in health care service and coverage exist for women serving in the Armed Forces. The GAO's comprehensive review shows that progress is being made, but severe deficiencies remain in critical areas. The quality and availability of services provided to military sexual assault survivors must be improved. Inaction is unacceptable.
"The GAO recommendations that sexual assault victims should have the best access to well-informed health care professionals and first responders and that there must be improved training for Victim Advocates and Sexual Assault Response Coordinators are right in line with the advocacy and legislation put forth in recent years by myself and my colleagues on the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus and the House Armed Services Committee.
"We have a long way to go toward combating and preventing sexual assault in the military. In order to fully address these crimes, we must work to improve the culture of the armed services, a process that begins by erasing gender discrepancies and giving women the same access to the protections and benefits afforded the men they serve alongside."
Click here to read the full GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/prerelease/smNF