As part of her broad effort to strengthen the rights and protections for victims of sexual assault in the military, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced her co-sponsorship of the Ruth Moore Act, legislation to make it easier for survivors of military sexual assault to get the benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that they need.
"Our best, brightest and bravest join our armed services for all the right reasons -- to serve our country, protect our freedom, and keep America safe," said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "But too often, our service members find themselves in the fight of their lives not in combat, but in their own ranks, among their own brothers and sisters in an environment that enables sexual assault, and tangled in red tape to get the help they need. We need to do everything in our power to end the scourge of sexual violence in the military, and stand up for victims by ensuring nothing ever stands in the way of getting the help and benefits they desperately need."
The legislation is named after Ruth Moore, a veteran from Maine who was raped twice after enlisting in the Navy at age 18. Moore reported the attacks, but the attacker was never charged or disciplined. Moore was labeled as suffering from mental illness and discharged from the Navy. She then fought for over 20 years before she was finally awarded the veterans benefits she deserved.
The vast majority of all military sexual assaults go unreported, which means veterans have a hard time meeting the burden of proof when applying for benefits. The Ruth Moore Act would make it easier for veterans to qualify for benefits, since they only have to show a medical diagnosis of a mental health condition and a link between an assault and that mental health condition.
Recently the VA reduced the standard of proof for combat veterans who suffer from PTSD. The legislation would also ensure the standard is offered to victims of military sexual assault.