Reps. Carbajal and Bacon Reintroduce Bill to Expand Benefits for Veteran Survivors of Sexual Assault with Support of Oldest War Veterans Service Organization in U.S.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars endorses bill by veteran lawmakers inspired by Central Coast veteran
Washington, October 24, 2023
Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24) and Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE-02) are reintroducing bipartisan legislation today to expand benefits for veterans who experienced sexual trauma during their service.
The Veteran Restitution and Justice Act would change the effective date of a veteran’s claim to allow veterans who experience sexual trauma during their service to receive retroactive disability benefits, starting from the date after their discharge from service rather than the claim file date.
The bll would change the effective date of a veteran’s claim to allow veterans who experience sexual trauma during their service to receive retroactive disability benefits, starting from the date after their discharge from service rather than the claim file date.
“My office and I recently had the chance to work with a veteran from the Central Coast who had finally mustered up the courage to report her own history of military sexual trauma more than 25 years after the incident, only to be told her benefits would only be considered back to the day she spoke up,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Our veterans deserve better when it comes to this historically underreported injury, especially as we acknowledge the stigma around this issue. That’s why I’ve worked across the aisle with Congressman Bacon—a fellow veteran in Congress—to craft legislation to deliver restitution for these survivors of sexual trauma and justice for the many veterans who we know faced these injuries while serving our nation.”
“One sexual assault in the military is one too many. Sexual assault in the military leaves behind a wake of trauma, anxiety, and depression,” said Rep. Bacon. “As Wing Commander at Ramstein, I established the best sexual assault prevention program in the Air Force because I recognize the importance of keeping our service members safe from this kind of violence. For those service members who do, tragically, experience sexual assault, we should ensure that they receive payment for treatments to help them recover. Changing the effective date from when veterans receive payments is the right thing to do.”
Currently, most benefits provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are calculated using the day the claim was filed.
But with survivors of military sexual traumas (including unwanted sexual contact or advances), there is a historical trend of stigma and underreporting, meaning veterans may wait years before filing a VA claim.
Congressman Carbajal and his team worked with one such case: a female veteran from the Central Coast of California who was granted benefits related to PTSD caused by a sexual trauma during her service but filed a claim more than 25 years after the injury, diminishing the total benefit that she qualified to receive.
The bill has earned the endorsement of Veterans of Foreign Wars, the largest and oldest war veterans service organization in the U.S.
“The VFW appreciates the consideration that Representative Salud Carbajal put into drafting this bill as MST is a priority for our advocacy efforts. The VFW continues to advocate in favor of the earliest dates possible for all service-connected disabilities as the Department of Veteran Affairs has implemented processes to determine the effective dates of compensation,” said Quandrea Patterson, Associate Director of VFW’s National Legislative Service.
The VA estimates that 1 in 3 female veterans and 1 in 50 male veterans experienced sexual trauma in some form during their service.
In certain cases, like exposure to Agent Orange or other toxic chemicals, the VA has granted retroactive benefits. But no such retroactivity exists for claims related to sexual trauma, despite the enduring effects these injuries can have on a veteran.
Congressman Carbajal served eight years in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, including active duty service during the Gulf War in 1992, where he was mobilized to Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Congressman Bacon served in the U.S. Air Force for nearly 30 years, retiring as a Brigadier General in 2014.
The two lawmakers are part of the For Country Caucus, a non-partisan group of military veterans serving in Congress who are dedicated to working together in a nonpartisan way to create a more productive government.
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