Huffman Helps Lead Effort to Combat Sexual Assault in the Military

June 05, 2013

WASHINGTON­—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) voted to pass the Ruth Moore Act (H.R. 671) last night, which expands critical benefits for victims of military sexual trauma. Huffman is a cosponsor of the Ruth Moore Act.

“The current system denies critical support to veterans who were victims of sexual trauma and struggle with PTSD or other mental illness,” Congressman Huffman said. “We need to do everything we can to protect victims of sexual assault, and the Ruth Moore Act makes it easier for veterans to get the help they need—and deserve.”

The Ruth Moore Act will make it easier for survivors of military sexual assault to get the benefits they deserve. Veterans who are partially or fully disabled from an injury suffered while serving in the military are entitled to disability benefits—access to health care for the injury and possibly a monthly disability payment that varies based on several factors. Currently, VA policy requires a veteran applying for disability benefits to demonstrate three things:

1)      Diagnosis of a medical or mental health issue.

2)      Proof that an event (a "stressor") happened to them while serving in the military.

3)      A link between the stressor and the medical/mental health issue, provided by a VA examiner.

More than 85% of all military sexual assaults go unreported, demonstrating that many survivors of military sexual trauma have found it hard to prove that an assault—the stressor—occurred. The Ruth Moore Act allows a statement from the survivor ("lay testimony") to be considered sufficient proof that the assault occurred.

The bill is named after Ruth Moore, a veteran 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 twenty years before she was finally awarded the veterans benefits she deserved.

Huffman is also an original cosponsor of the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (H.R. 1593), which would take the reporting, oversight, investigation and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military’s normal chain of command and place jurisdiction in the newly created, autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office comprised of civilian and military experts. 

He is also a cosponsor of H. Res. 213, which would establish a Special Committee on Sexual Assault and Abuse in the Armed Forces.