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Ernst Leads Bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today introduced the Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act, along with the support of Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The bipartisan Military SAVE Act puts military sexual trauma (MST) survivors in control of their health care by giving them the opportunity, flexibility and discretion to choose treatment options that best suit their needs.

Under this legislation, if the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not match the needs of MST survivors, the Military SAVE Act gives all MST survivors the option to seek prompt care at a non-VA facility of their choice. This enables MST survivors to find a trusted provider who has the specialized training and expertise to care for these complex and sensitive cases.

“The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016 included efforts to strengthen policy for sexual assault prevention as well as increased victim support. However, the Military SAVE Act works to continue to improve care for military sexual trauma survivors,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “This bipartisan legislation addresses the individualized needs of military sexual trauma survivors to ensure they have the ability to choose their own quality and timely care from a provider they trust.”

“Victims of sexual assault have benefited from the historic reforms we’ve made to the military justice system, but we shouldn’t stop there,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor. “We should continue to look for ways to improve the quality and access to care for victims, which is exactly what this bill aims to do.”

"Military members who have been sexually assaulted should be able to seek immediate care with a doctor or nurse they trust,” said Senator Kirk. “The culture of corruption at the VA is systemic and real, and no serviceman or woman should ever feel limited in their ability to seek quality care after experiencing sexual assault.”

“Victims of sexual assault in our military need a government on their side. This bipartisan legislation meets compelling human need for victims of military sexual assault by ensuring that they have access to timely care from a doctor in their own community that best suits their needs,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski, a member of the Senate Military Family Caucus. “Victims may suffer lasting trauma, prejudice and overwhelming obstacles, and it is our duty to provide them with a reliable healthcare system that can assist their needs. Promises made must be promises kept.”

“I strongly support this much-needed change,” said Senator Lindsey Graham. “Senator Ernst has been a leader in bringing this important issue forward and her work will help improve the care available to our veterans who are military sexual trauma survivors. I hope we are able to push this important change into law at the soonest possible opportunity.”

About the Military SAVE Act:

• The Military SAVE Act amends the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to allow veterans who are MST survivors to choose health care providers outside the VA, regardless of certain eligibility requirements. The option to access non-VA care applies to injuries directly related to military sexual trauma while serving in the military on active duty or in training.

• Survivors of MST would contact the Veterans Choice Card benefits hotline in order to report a documented or previously unreported sexual assault during their military service – these veterans would receive automatic authorization to private care without having to satisfy any other conditions.

• This legislation is the companion to the House of Representatives bill, H.R. 1603, introduced by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY).