Tester stands up to help military sexual assault survivors get benefits they need

Senator introduces bill to reduce burden on survivors seeking disability benefits

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester today introduced a bipartisan bill to help survivors of military sexual assault access the benefits they deserve.

Tester’s bill, the Ruth Moore Act, makes it easier for veterans to qualify for disability benefits by reducing their burden of proof for incidents of military sexual trauma. Often times, incidents of sexual assault contribute to a survivor being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (or PTSD), which makes them eligible for VA disability benefits. However, in order to receive these benefits, survivors must currently provide detailed proof of the assault, and that evidence is not always available. Tester’s bill reduces the burdensome requirements for military sexual trauma survivors, and it allows them to more quickly and more fairly access the benefits that allow them to move on with their lives.

“Congress and the Pentagon must continue working together to address the prevalence of sexual violence in our armed services,” Tester said. “And as we seek to bring justice to survivors of military sexual trauma, we must also make sure they are treated fairly in accessing the benefits they need. That’s what this bill does.”

The bill is named after Ruth Moore, a veteran from Maine who was raped twice after enlisting in the Navy at age 18. Moore reported the attacks, but the attacker was never charged or disciplined. Moore was labeled as suffering from mental illness and discharged from the Navy. She then fought for over 20 years before she was finally awarded the veterans benefits she deserved.

“We have always known that the fight for justice for survivors of military sexual trauma wasn’t one we were going to win overnight,” Moore said. As a nation, we’ve made tremendous progress connecting with our veterans, but we’ve still got many obstacles ahead of us as we reteach ideology and work through old misperceptions and victim blaming attitudes about military sexual assault. We’re not giving up until every victim of sexual assault in the military gets the acknowledgement and recognition of their post assault disabilities, fair treatment in the claims process, and the benefits they deserve as veterans who served their country with honor.”

Tester first started working on the issue after Sarah Albertson, a Montana veteran, told him about her experience with sexual assault during her service in the Marines.

Tester introduced the bill with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). It has received broad support from disability, military and veterans advocacy groups, and is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Tester’s Ruth Moore Act is available online HERE.