Congresswoman Chellie Pingree welcomed a recent statement from the Veterans Administration (VA) pledging to review previously denied claims from victims of sexual assault in the military.
"This is something we have been pushing the VA to do--I'm glad they have agreed and I hope they follow through. We have heard from many, many victims of sexual assault who have had their claims denied when they should have been approved," Pingree said.
At issue are claims made by veterans who were sexually assaulted but have had those claims denied when they couldn't meet the VA's standards of proof to show they had been attacked. Pingree has introduced a bill that makes it easier for veterans to qualify for benefits, requiring only that they have to show a medical diagnosis of a mental health condition, and a link between an assault and that mental health condition.
At a hearing last July, VA officials toldPingree that they planned to review all claims for veterans who were suffering from PTSD related to sexual assault. Pingree wrote to the VA and asked them to follow through on that review and expand it to victims of sexual assault who are suffering from other disabilities like depression or anxiety disorder. To date the VA has not responded to Pingree's letter nor begun that review.
In a statement published in a New York Times story yesterday (http://goo.gl/fvJbb), VAofficials said they will send a letter to veterans who have had their sexual assault-related claims denied, promising to review the claims again.
"Ever since the VA said last summer that they would start doing these reviews, veterans have been calling my office to find out when they will begin. I'm hopeful the VA will finally follow through," Pingree said.
Pingree and Senator Jon Tester introduced the Ruth Moore Act last month to ease standards for victims of sexual assault in the military. The bill has bipartisan support and has been endorsed by editorials in last Sunday's New York Times (http://goo.gl/NT3bG) and the Bangor (Maine) Daily News (http://goo.gl/1EhH7.)