Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tex.) and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), the Ranking Member and Chair of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance & Memorial Affairs, and Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health, released the following statements after they introduced H.R. 6064 last week, a bill to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) disability exam process for veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma by requiring VA to partner with the National Academies to complete a comprehensive review of the M.S.T. disability exam process.
“VA estimates that approximately 1 in 3 veteran women and 1 in 50 veteran men have experienced military sexual trauma. Following an oversight hearing just this week on MST, it’s clear that there are far too many gaps in the process for serving these veterans,” said Ranking Member Bost. “I am proud to join my friends, fellow veterans, and Committee leaders, Congressman Nehls, General Bergman, and Congresswoman Luria in introducing this vitally important legislation today. Survivors of military sexual trauma deserve a supportive VA system that works for them. This bill will help Congress determine where the current disability exam process could be strengthened to better service servicemembers and veterans who have survived this unique and devastating trauma.”
“It takes a tremendous amount of courage for survivors of military sexual trauma to come forward and submit a claim for compensation, so it is important that V.A. gets these claims right the first time,” said DAMA Ranking Member Nehls. “As the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, I am committed to ensuring our veterans receive the gold-standard of treatment.”
“Ensuring our veterans have access to the services they need is a bipartisan priority,” said DAMA Chair Luria. “We have heard far too many stories of the VA failing our veterans who have experienced MST. This legislation ensures that the VA’s claims process receives a top-to-bottom review so that we can correct these mistakes.”
“Just as we must strive to care for the whole Veteran as an individual with unique needs, Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma need not just support, but the correct support,” said Health Ranking Member Bergman. “I’m confident this bill will set MST support at the VA on the right track.”
The review would determine:
• The adequacy of DBQs, and the schedule of rating disabilities
• Whether certain conditions linked to MST should require referral for both a mental health and physical health examination.
• What credentialling and training are necessary for disability examiners to complete exams related to mental health conditions and physical health conditions linked to MST, such as sexual and pelvic dysfunction, musculoskeletal disabilities (e.g, neck injury), and cardiovascular conditions.
• The necessity of internal pelvic exams and alternatives if the veteran does not wish or cannot complete such exam.
H.R. 6064 would also require the VA to provide the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee with a report on any actions they plan to take as a result of findings and recommendations in the NASEM study.
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