House passes bill urging VA to change military sexual assault regulations
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The House passed legislation on Monday that calls on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to define military sexual assault as a service-connected cause of mental health disorders.

Passed by voice vote, the bill directs the VA to report to Congress every year on the number of claims for disability compensation based on a mental health condition allegedly caused by military sexual trauma. 

The report would have to include the average number of days to process the claims and a description of the training provided to Veterans Benefits Administration employees who are processing the claims.

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“We owe it to our veterans who are subject to personal assaults during their military service to ensure that the VA expeditiously and accurately processes mental health claims for conditions related to [military sexual assault], such as depression, anxiety or PTSD,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). 

The measure is named after Ruth Moore, a veteran who was sexually assaulted while serving in the Navy. Moore reported the attacks, but the alleged perpetrator was never charged. She was later discharged from the Navy after being labeled as mentally ill.

Moore challenged the VA’s decision to deny her disability benefits for more than 20 years until she was awarded the benefits in 2009.

“There are thousands and thousands of Ruth Moores out there who have been fighting for benefits for years,” said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), the author of the legislation.

The House passed a similar bill by voice vote in 2013, but the Senate never considered it.

Tucked into the measure is a provision that limits awards and bonuses paid to VA senior executives to a maximum of an aggregate $2 million each year through 2018.

The House is expected to vote on legislation this week, possibly Wednesday, to make it easier for the VA to fire or demote employees for poor performance.