Today, the House of Representatives passed the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 (H.R. 671), a bill cosponsored by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter that would make it easier for survivors of military sexual assault to access the health treatment they deserve.
"Sexual assault has no place in our country or our military," Shea-Porter said. "We need to stop these acts of violence, and if we fail, we must give our veterans the first-rate support and care they deserve. I applaud the bipartisan supporters of this key violence-protection legislation."
The Ruth Moore Act of 2013 relaxes the evidence needed for veterans to access essential services -- such as medical care, expedited transfers, and legal assistance -- in the aftermath of a sexual assault which occurred while in the military. The new standard would accept veteran's testimony along with a diagnosis by a mental health professional as necessary proof to receive benefits.
Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has worked consistently to address sexual assault in the military. Along with cosponsoring the Ruth Moore Act, she recently cosponsored H.Res. 213, which would establish the Special Committee on Sexual Assault and Abuse in the Armed Forces to conduct oversight, ensure accountability, and report on the activities of the Department of Defense to prevent, reduce, prosecute, and provide victims' services for cases of sexual assault and abuse in the Armed Forces. She cosponsored the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which was signed into law in March. And she has urged Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to assist the insurance industry in implementing the Affordable Care Act's full range of domestic violence coverage. Along with 60 members of Congress, Shea-Porter wrote to the Secretary in February, asking HHS to provide insurers with comprehensive guidance on identifying appropriate domestic violence screening and counseling coverage.
According to the Department of Defense's annual report on sexual assault in the military, 23 percent of servicewomen and 4 percent of servicemen indicated they experienced unwanted sexual conduct since joining the military.
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S. 294.