CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday , June 4, 2013, the House will consider H.R. 671, the Ruth Moore Act of 2013, as amended, under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on February 13, 2013 by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which held a markup reported the bill by voice vote.
H.R. 671 requires the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to report annually to Congress on those disability claims filed during the previous year that were based on a covered mental health condition alleged to be the result of or aggravated by military sexual trauma. The bill also includes the sense of Congress that the Secretary should improve the Department’s regulations regarding military sexual trauma by specifying it as an in-service stressor and recognizing the full range of physical and mental disabilities that can result.
Further, beginning 15 months after enactment and continuing until the Secretary improves the Department’s regulations related to military sexual trauma, H.R. 671 requires the Secretary to provide to each veteran who has submitted a covered claim or has been treated for military sexual trauma a copy of the annual report submitted to Congress. Also, throughout this period, the Secretary is required to provide a monthly progress report on the regulatory process and specific information on the respective claims’ processing to each veteran who has submitted any claim for disability compensation or been treated at a medical facility of the Department. H.R. 671, as amended, requires that this progress report information be posted on VA’s website as well.
In addition, beginning 15 months after enactment and continuing until the Secretary improves the Department’s regulations related to military sexual trauma, the Secretary is required to provide monthly updates to Congress on all adjudicated covered claims, the outcome of each claim, and the reason for any claim denials.
Lastly, Section 3 of the bill extends the COLA round down provision set forth in chapter 30 (Montgomery G.I. Bill) and chapter 35 (Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance) educational assistance benefits for 5 years.
According to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, “VA’s current regulation on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as it pertains to in-service military sexual trauma (MST) cases, is not effective.” The regulation has not lived up to its goal of reducing the burden of proof for veterans alleging MST, and it does not take into account the full range of disabilities that can be the result of MST.
Many cases of MST are hard to prove, either because they are not reported or they are not prosecuted. As a result, many victims of MST find it hard to receive disability claims from the VA. For example, during the period from 2008-2010, the VA approved over 50 percent of combat related PTSD claims, while only approving 35 percent of MST related PTSD claims.
Ruth Moore’s case, for whom this bill is named, demonstrates the problems many victims of MST go through to obtain benefits. It took twenty-three years for Ms. Moore’s claim to be approved. During that time, Ms. Moore suffered both physical and emotional trauma as a result of the attack.
H.R. 671 helps to change this by expressing the urgent sense of Congress that regulations must change and specifying the direction in which these regulations must go.
CBO estimates that, due to the extension of the COLA round-down provision in Section 3 of the bill, H.R. 671 would “reduce direct spending by $15 million over the 2014-2023 period.” Furthermore, CBO estimates that H.R. 671, “would have a discretionary cost of $4 million over the 2014-2018 period, subject to the availability of appropriated amounts [and] pay-as-you-go procedures apply because enacting the legislation would affect direct spending. Enacting the bill would have no effect on revenues.”