The Second Betrayal
On June 6, the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 was taken up by the Senate’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, after being unanimously passed in the House two days prior.
Ruth Moore joined the Navy when she was 18, nearly three decades ago. During her first assignment, she was raped twice by her supervisor. In a petition with over 160,000 supporters, Ruth asks for a simple change “so that Military Sexual Trauma survivors aren’t held to a higher standard of proof than other veterans with PTSD.” She described the results these crimes had on her in the petition:
That was the first betrayal – resulting in a life filled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, a sexually transmitted disease, miscarriages, suicide attempts, homelessness, an end to my marriage, and terror I have lived with ever since. Now in my 40s, I am permanently and totally disabled. PTSD affects my ability to maintain employment, trust in relationships,function socially, and even get up in the morning.
The bill was written by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who said:
The Ruth Moore Act will make a big difference in the lives of tens of thousands of veterans who are survivors of sexual assault in the military and are struggling to get the benefits they are owed. Almost every day we hear from another veteran who is fighting for their benefits and has been repeatedly turned down because they are being held to an unreasonably high standard of proof.
According to ArmyTimes.com, Ruth was “discharged after suffering from depression, attempted suicide and treatment for a sexually transmitted disease she received during the rapes.” She claims that after the abuses, the Veterans Administration denied her disability benefits that she was entitled to receive for her PTSD.
For countless veterans like me, a denied VA claim is the second betrayal, and can mean the difference between life and death. And yet the VA has established and used a completely biased, unjust system for approving PTSD disability benefits. It is a system that is designed to save money and cut costs to our veterans. This results in veterans suffering needlessly.
After over two decades of battling the VA, she received her claim.
The Ruth Moore Act calls for accountability from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to both Congress and to those who have submitted claims, in the form of an annual report. Each report is to include the number of claims submitted that year and of those claims, the number and percentage submitted by each sex, that were approved, and that were denied. The numbers of pending claims and those on appeal will also be documented.
This report is even more extensive. Of the denied claims, the report must also include the three most common reasons that the Secretary provides for denial, as well as the number of denials made because the veteran didn’t receive a medical examination.
The bill will also call for accounts on how long is takes, on average, for claims to be completed, as well as “a description of the training that the Secretary provides to employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration specifically with respect to covered claims, including the frequency, length, and content of such training.”
In her petition, Ruth clarifies the gravity of the issue at hand:
I am not alone. By DOD’s own estimates, over 19,000 service members are assaulted in the military each year – over 500,000 men and women in the past five decades… Last year, the civil rights organization Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) uncovered appalling data. From 2008-2010, the VA only approved 32.3% of Military Sexual Trauma-related PTSD claims versus 54.2% of all other PTSD claims. It’s not surprising – the VA requires survivors like me to provide evidence that usually doesn’t exist…
Congress feels strongly about cases like Ruth’s.
It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should update and improve the regulations of the Department of Veterans Affairs with respect to military sexual trauma by (1) ensuring that military sexual trauma is specified as an in-service stressor in determining the service-connection of post-traumatic stress disorder by including military sexual trauma as a stressor… (2) recognizing the full range of physical and mental disabilities (including depression, anxiety, and other disabilities as indicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association) that can result from military sexual trauma.
If this bill passes in the Senate, we should expect not only an annual report beginning in December 2014, but also an initial report by no later than 90 days after the bill’s enactment.
Caroline Mahony is an editorial intern with Human Events.