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House Committee Approves Women Veterans Bills

On May 21, the House Veterans Affairs Committee approved, by separate voice votes, H.R. 1607, the Ruth Moore Act, and H.R. 1575, a bill to provide counseling services for women veterans recently separated from the Armed Forces. The Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee approved H.R. 1607 on May 14; the Subcommittee on Health approved H.R. 1575 on May 15 (see The Source, 5/15/15).

The Ruth Moore Act, sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), would direct the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover mental health claims that result from military sexual trauma (MST) that occurred during active duty. VA would be required to accept a diagnosis by a mental health professional, satisfactory lay or other evidence of such trauma, and an opinion by the mental health professional that the mental health condition is related to MST. The bill would allow such service-connections to be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

During consideration of the bill, the committee adopted a substitute amendment by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) that would require VA to submit to Congress regular updates on the status of such claims and expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that VA should update its regulations regarding MST and mental health claims.

H.R. 1575, sponsored by Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-FL), would require the Readjustment Counseling Service of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to provide reintegration and readjustment services to women veterans in group settings. Such services would include reintegration into family, employment, and the community of veterans; financial counseling; occupational counseling; information and counseling on stress reduction; and information and counseling on conflict resolution.

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