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Barr proposes legislation to give military sexual assault victims additional options

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Lexington Congressman Andy Barr introduced proposed legislation last week that would aid military sexual assault victims.

Barr, who represents the Sixth District, gave statistics backing up his legislation, the Military Sexual Assault Victim Empowerment Act, or SAVE, that allows victims to receive the care that best meets their needs.

“The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that one in five female veterans and one in 100 male veterans who use their health care programs, screen positive for Military Sexual Trauma, or MST,” he said.

Congressman Andy Barr, R-Lexington, is proposing legislation that would help military sexual assault victims. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

Barr quoted statistics from the American Psychological Association that sexual assault in the military has risen by 88 percent over the last several years. “And yet, the Department of Defense has acknowledged that less than 15 percent of victims report the matter to a military authority.”

Barr said currently victims cannot go outside the VA healthcare system, unless the VA is unable to treat the patient, lives outside the service area of a VA facility, an appointment cannot be arranged within 30 days, or a letter of authorization is issued.

His bill would change that system for the victims. “Survivors of MST would have the ability to seek treatment related to their injuries by a private health care provider of their choice during a three-year pilot project,” Barr said.

Deputy Kentucky Veterans Affairs Commissioner Heather French Henry was one of the people who served on a task force examining the issue.

“Unfortunately, MST is not a new issue,” she said. “What’s truly heartbreaking is that many of our nation’s heroes have suffered in silence for many years. That is not acceptable.

“It’s now time to walk the walk, instead of talk the talk,” she said. “And finally get a concrete plan in place together and move forward. We simply cannot wait any longer to provide the unique individualized services that these heroes need.”

Susan Mosely, a victim of MST, testified before a Congressional committee on the issue.

“I got to really express why this bill is so important, who it’s going to help and how it can help people in the future,” she said. “If one person can have a better path, then all of this will have been worth it.”

Barr said the bill designates five VA facilities across the country to perform pilot programs, including one in Kentucky, and has received assurances from the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans affairs that this bill will be included as a provision in the upcoming comprehensive VA reform bill, which will have its first committee hearing in October.

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