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Mental Health Benefits for Victims of MST Subject of House Hearing

On April 14, the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing on, among other bills, the Ruth Moore Act (H.R. 1607).

The Ruth Moore Act, sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), would make it easier for veterans to qualify for benefits if there is a diagnosis of a mental health condition related to military sexual trauma (MST). During her testimony before the committee, Rep. Pingree noted that “The VA [Department of Veterans Affairs] finally acknowledged that far too many veterans who have deployed into harm’s way suffered the emotional consequences of their service but could not, through no fault of their own, locate military documentation that verified the traumatic events that triggered their PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. The VA now accepts their statement of traumatic events, along with a PTSD diagnosis and a medical link, as enough to receive disability benefits. The VA’s less favorable treatment of veterans who suffered sexual assault than those who suffered other forms of combat trauma is arbitrary. The VA can articulate no rationale for why a veteran’s lay testimony may be adequate to establish combat trauma, but not trauma from a sexual assault.”

The following witnesses also testified during the hearing:

  • David R. McLenachen, acting deputy under secretary for Disability Assistance, Veterans Benefits Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs;
  • Zachary Hearn, deputy director for Claims, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, The American Legion;
  • Blake C. Ortner, deputy government relations director, Paralyzed Veterans of America;
  • Paul R. Varela, assistant national legislative director, Disabled American Veterans;
  • Ronald B. Abrams, joint executive director, National Veterans Legal Services Program; and
  • Kenneth M. Carpenter, founding member, National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates.


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