In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both the House and Senate reintroduced a comprehensive bill to support veteran survivors of military sexual trauma (MST).
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, joined Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) in early April to introduce the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support (SAVES) Act. The MOAA-supported bill will improve MST survivors’ access to essential care and services in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and ensure greater assistance when veterans are applying for disability benefits through the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).
[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Support the SAVES Act]
“MOAA is encouraged by VA’s efforts to strengthen its culture and support to veterans who experienced military sexual trauma, and we recognize more needs to be done,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, USAF (Ret). “We greatly appreciate Senators Tester and Murkowski and Congresswoman Pingree for reintroducing the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support (SAVES) Act to improve the collaboration and coordination of benefits and health care services that will not only benefit those impacted by MST but will help all veterans accessing or receiving VA services. MOAA lends its full support of the bill and will work with Congress and VA to ensure enactment and implementation of this important legislation.”
MOAA urged Congress to reintroduce the bill last month in written testimony before the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs because of major gaps in access to benefits and health care services for MST survivors.
A series of audits by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed the VA was falling short on its support to this group of veterans. The OIG disclosed serious VBA claims-processing system failures, such as processors not following policies and procedures that resulted in high denial rates for MST claims. Additionally, OIG reported problems with MST coordinators in VHA being ill-equipped and having insufficient staff to help ensure care was provided to survivors.
While lawmakers were able to get some provisions included in an end-of-the year 2019 package expanding access to health care and establishing specialized MST teams in VBA, members continued their push to make more meaningful improvements to support MST survivors in the 117th Congress … and now in the 118th.
MOAA needs your help in supporting this important legislation. Join us in contacting your lawmakers today and urging them to support S. 1028 and H.R. 2441, the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support (SAVES) Act. Let Congress know it’s time to get this comprehensive legislation to improve health care and benefits for MST survivors signed into law.
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