Tuesday January 03, 2012 | 03:53 PM

A response to Rep. Chellie Pingree from a high-ranking intelligence official is giving hope to advocates who say that service members victimized by sexual assault shouldn’t have to report resulting mental health treatment to gain a government security clearance.

Pingree, D-1st District, has been involved in issues surrounding military sexual assault for some time, including initiatives to ease the path to disability benefits for veterans who suffered sexual assault during their time in the military.

Now Pingree, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has joined a campaign to alter the requirements of “Question 21” of the federal “Questionnaire for National Security Positions.”

The question asks whether a person has received mental health counseling in the past seven years. In 2008 and exemption was granted that gave an exemption to military members who received counseling as a result of combat-related trauma. That allowed a service member or former service member to answer “no” to Question 21 if there counseling was a result of combat.

Pingree is among those who want to extend that exemption to military sexual assault-related counseling.

Military sexual assault is a big but often hidden problem, say Pingree and advocates. Knowing that getting counseling for it could interfere later with obtaining a security clearance can keep people from getting the help they need, they say.

Last month, Pingree got a letter from James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. In his formal letter Clapper said that his staff was working on the issue with the Department of Defense, and noted that what they did would apply government-wide, not just to the Department of Defense. He added that the issue would be addressed “as expeditiously as possible” and that it had his personal attention.

But in a personal note written below his signature, Clapper added that he’s “very familiar with this issue, and am personally supportive of what you are urging.”

After Pingree got that Dec. 7 letter from Clapper, she followed up with a Dec. 15 letter to Michael Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence who Clapper said his staff was working with on the Question 21 military sexual assault exemption issue.

Pingree hasn’t heard back yet from Vickers, but advocates who have been working on the issue, such as the non-profit Service Women’s Action Network, say they are heartened by the progress they seem to be making, and by Clapper’s response.

About this Blog

Subscribe to the
Maine on the Hill RSS

About the Author

Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

Subscribe to the
Maine on the Hill RSS

Previous entries

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

More

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)
Prefer to respond privately? Email us here.