Monday February 25, 2013 | 01:19 PM

WASHINGTON – A bill named for a Maine veteran and co-sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 1, received an endorsement over the weekend from the New York Times editorial page.

The Ruth Moore Act of 2013 would relax the requirements for veterans and active-duty service members who are seeking disability benefits due to sexual assaults that occurred while serving in the military.

The bill – sponsored by Pingree in the House and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, in the Senate – is named for Ruth Moore of Milbridge, who says she was never properly treated after being raped twice as a young Navy enlistee. Moore struggled for decades with overwhelming emotional and physical problems and was repeatedly denied benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs due to lack of supporting evidence in her military records, which had been expunged.

In an editorial entitled “Help for Veterans Twice Betrayed,” The Times wrote that the changes would bring “a long-overdue promise of fairer treatment” to survivors of sexual assault in the military.

"Sexual assaults are an underreported epidemic in the military — the Pentagon estimates that more than 19,000 service members are assaulted each year — and the damage they do is severe,” states the editorial, published Sunday. “Studies have shown that sexual trauma is the leading cause of PTSD among servicewomen. The V.A. recently made it easier for veterans who have served in war zones to qualify for PTSD-related benefits. But it has not done the same for survivors of sexual trauma, who can find it difficult to document a crime often cloaked in secrecy, denial and shame.

“Women — who only now will be allowed into official combat roles — are deeply disadvantaged when seeking the compensation and treatment they deserve. The Ruth Moore Act would undo that injustice, easing the burden of proof for sexual-assault survivors who report mental health problems,” the editorial states.

The full editorial can be found here.

Disclosure: Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority shareowner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville.

 

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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.
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