Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) announced today that their amendment ensuring military victims of sexual assault have access to accurate records will be part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives later this morning.
"We must turn the tide against this scourge of sexual assault, but we must also ensure we are caring for those who have already been victims of this violence," DeLauro said. "Currently, Veterans Affairs providers often only receive Defense Department records if the veteran brings them. Further, those records often do not document sexual assaults that occurred while on active duty. Long-term preservation of these records can help veterans seek necessary assistance. We ask a lot of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. The least we can do to honor their service is provide them with the care and benefits they need."
Pingree said: "Time and time again we have heard from survivors of sexual assault who have run into a brick wall when they try to claim the benefits they are owed. Lost records or insufficient records are used as an excuse to deny benefits that a veteran has earned, and it's time to make sure the Department of Defense starts doing a better job preserving personnel records and making them available to veterans."
"Sexual assault in the military pervades our ranks and accountability is needed at every level, from the top down, active duty and veterans. Aftercare for the men and women who serve our nation is a vital part of supporting sexual assault survivors, and streamlining access to records is a much-needed part of that process. We have a responsibility to provide veterans who have endured this horrific crime with the best resources and an effective system," said Tsongas
The amendment requires each branch of the armed services to report to Congress on steps taken to ensure the retention of--and access to--evidence and records relating to sexual assaults. They also must include what steps are being taken to ensure those records are transmitted to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The issue was raised with DeLauro by staff at the West Haven, CT veterans' hospital, where they have been dealing with this problem.