Senate bill would help victims of sexual assault get VA benefits
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Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterLobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job MORE (D-Mont.) has introduced legislation to make it easier for veterans who suffered sexual abuse in the military to get help from the Veterans Affairs Department.

The Ruth Moore Act aims to make it easier for veterans to get VA benefits by easing the department’s “burden of proof” standards. As part of the VA’s process to get disability benefits, a veteran must be able to show that that their condition is connected to their time in the military.

"Congress and the Pentagon must continue working together to address the prevalence of sexual violence in our armed services," Tester said in a statement. "And as we seek to bring justice to survivors of military sexual trauma, we must also make sure they are treated fairly in accessing the benefits they need. That's what this bill does."

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According to the legislation, if a veteran says a mental health condition is connected to military sexual trauma, the VA will generally consider a diagnosis from a mental health professional to be “satisfactory” evidence for considering the condition to be related to military service.

The legislation goes a step further, adding that, if there isn’t evidence to the contrary, a veteran’s testimony could be enough to “establish" that "the claimed military sexual trauma" happened.

Tester’s legislation comes as senators approved a handful of veteran-related amendments to the budget, which passed early Friday morning.

Senators passed amendments on improving VA healthcare for rural veterans, allowing the agency to hire more mental healthcare workers, bolstering a program that gives veterans access to non-VA care, expanding the VA’s research on issues related to female veterans and giving legally married same-sex couples access to VA benefits.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has introduced a companion bill to Tester’s legislation in the House.