This week, a conference committee of House and Senate leaders on veteran issues signed off on a new Veteran Affairs reform bill that attempts to address some issues related to sexual assault in the military.
Some of the reforms include expanding VA counseling to include active-duty and reserve troops. The bill also promises to conduct a report comparing the treatment and services available to male veterans who experienced sexual trauma in the military with those available to female veterans.
Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee Member and Survivor Brian Lewis who testified last year at a Veteran’s Affairs hearing, responded to the proposed reforms:
“Just as with the military, the time for reports about how the Veterans Health Administration treats male survivors of military sexual trauma has passed long ago. Male survivors who have already sacrificed so much should not be asked to wait for another two years to see the results of another report with no promise of resource parity in sight.
“A year ago, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Health made a historic decision to call a male survivor of military sexual assault to testify about the inadequacies of MST care at the VA. I produced for that committee the VHA’s own resource listing demonstrating no residential treatment programs exist that are solely dedicated to treating male survivors of military sexual trauma while female survivors have twelve such programs. Outpatient support groups are virtually nonexistent for male survivors of military sexual trauma across the entire Veterans Health Administration. A majority of military sexual trauma coordinators across the Veterans Health Administration are female. Men need a safe place and a safe resource to turn to in order to recover. The VA is currently not that place. The VA will not be that place until Congress stops mandating reports and starts mandating actions.”
On the plan to expand VA counseling to include active-duty and reserve troops, Brian said:
“Expanding eligibility to military sexual trauma counseling at the Veterans Health Administration to active duty and reserve members is a promising start. Survivors need to feel enabled to seek treatment in order to heal from the effects of being assaulted while serving their country. The Military Health System has proven unequal to the task as numerous reports keep coming to light showing that medical officers too often give false diagnoses such as personality disorders, adjustment disorders, and the like to survivors who have attempted to report their attack.
“However, asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to shoulder these extra costs is unfair as well. These costs should be borne in part by the Department of Defense, whose failures to address this crisis are well documented.”