Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) helped pass bipartisan Ruth Moore Act, common sense legislation that will make it easier for veteran survivors of military sexual assaults to get the benefits they deserve. Kuster, a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, is a cosponsor of the Ruth Moore Act.
"Today's vote marks an important step forward in the fight to level the playing field for survivors of military sexual assault," Kuster said. "Too many veteran victims of sexual assault are unable to receive the medical services they need, and this bill would help correct this injustice by pushing the VA to recognize military sexual trauma as an in-service stressor. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that veterans who have suffered sexual trauma in the military receive the benefits they deserve."
Named for Ruth Moore, a Maine veteran who was raped in the military and struggled with the VA to secure her benefits, the Ruth Moore Act pushes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve benefits for survivors of sexual trauma in the military by requiring the VA to report to Congress on every veteran who has applied for benefits or been treated at a VA facility as a result of military sexual trauma. This legislation would push the VA to update its regulations and recognize the full range of physical and mental disabilities that may result from military sexual trauma.
Today's vote comes in the wake of a Department of Defense (DoD) report which found that the number of service members anonymously reporting sexual assaults increased by more than 30% over the past two years. According to the report, there were roughly 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2011 alone, but fewer than 3,200 were reported. In 2012, the report found that the number of cases grew to 26,000, with fewer than 3,400 cases reported.
Kuster has been outspoken on the need for action to address the ongoing epidemic of military sexual trauma. In May, Kuster toured the new women's center at the White River Junction VA Medical Center and spoke with staff about the need for improved services for survivors of military sexual trauma. In April, Kuster wrote an op-ed focused on the need for bipartisan action to better prevent and respond to sexual assault in the military.