Rep. Delgado Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Support Military Sexual Trauma Survivors
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Antonio Delgado (NY-19) and Nancy Mace (SC-01) introduced the VA Peer Support Enhancement for MST Survivors Act. The bipartisan bill establishes a peer support program at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) for survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
“Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma deserve comprehensive support at every step of their healing process,” said Rep. Delgado. “This bipartisan bill ensures survivors seeking their earned benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration receive trauma-informed support. I want to thank members of my NY-19 Veterans Advisory Committee for sharing their experiences with this critical issue affecting so many women and men who served our country, and for helping to shape this legislation.”
“When our military men and women are violated or abused by their teammates, it is our duty to ensure they have the tools and support they need to heal,” said Rep. Mace. “Currently, survivors of sexual assault in the military do not have access to peer support through the Veterans Benefits Administration. Our bill corrects this, and creates an advocate system similarly found at the Pentagon and elsewhere in the Defense Department.”
“As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, one of my top priorities is making sure that VA is safe and welcoming for all veterans who walk through its doors—including veteran survivors of Military Sexual Trauma,” said Chairman Takano. “That’s why I’m proud to support Rep. Delgado’s bipartisan legislation to ensure veteran survivors have access to the same trauma-informed peer support when applying for benefits through the Veterans Benefits Administration as they do when seeking VA healthcare.”
“Because the military is a brother- and sisterhood like no other, peer support programs are very effective and have long been popular in the veteran community,” said Malia Du Mont, Chair of Rep. Delgado’s NY-19 Veterans Advisory Committee. “This bill will create a critical new resource for survivors of Military Sexual Trauma, which will be a welcome addition to the other peer support programs currently available to veterans in NY-19. I would like to thank Congressman Delgado for his unwavering efforts to ensure that all veterans have access to the support and assistance they need.”
“As a retired Army Command Sergeant Major and now a VSO, I find it absolutely revolting to listen to the horrible, disgusting MST stories that I encounter when processing claims for Veterans,” said Gary Flaherty, Director of the Columbia County Veteran's Service Agency. “Our County is small, yet we have 9 MST cases. It is particularly a struggle to get a MST case approved for male Veterans. Regardless of whether a male or female Veteran, we know that military personnel were and are hesitant to seek help. Thanks to Congressman Delgado's introduction of this critical legislation, these Veterans will finally be heard.”
While the Veterans Health Administration has a peer support system for MST survivors and the Department of Defense has its own victim advocate program, the VBA has no similar programs. As such, MST survivors receive no formal mental health support as part of their application process at the VBA—the agency responsible for administering financial benefits and programs for veterans including service-connected disability compensation, non-service-connected pension, vocational rehabilitation, G.I. Bill benefits, and more.