By Mike Peterson

(Washington) -- Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is among congressional members concerned about the growing number of military-related sexual assaults.

Ernst and other colleagues introduced the Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment Act--or SAVE. Ernst says the SAVE Act provides military sexual trauma victims opportunity, flexibility and discretion to choose treatment options that best suit their needs.

"The military SAVE Act," said Ernst, "empowers these victims of military sexual trauma to find the specialized care they need when they need it. Additionally, it enables them to find the physician or psychiatrist they deem most suitable for them, and someone they are comfortable sharing an incredibly difficult experience with."

The Red Oak Republican says the legislation also allows veterans to seek assistance outside the regular V-A system.

"We have a number of new veterans who are coming forward," she said, "and, they're not able to gain access as quickly to those services as they probably need. So, this is just one other way to provide access or choice to those veterans."

Ernst says statistics show that sexual assault incidents have increased among service women in recent years.

"According to the Washington Post," said Ernst, "a recent V-A survey found that one-in-four women said they experience sexual harassment or assault. And, the problem is becoming more pressing, because female veterans represent the military's fastest growing population, with an estimated 2.2 million--or 10% of the country's veterans."

As a female veteran, and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Ernst believes she brings a different perspective to the issue.

"My more-than 23-year career has given me a unique perspective on this issue," she said. "And, I strongly believe there should be no room and there should be no tolerance for any sexual assault in the military."

Other sponsors in the U.S. Senate include Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and Republicans Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.