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Veterans' Advocacy Organization Urges Congressional Support of the Ruth Moore Act of 2013

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Washington, DC, April 23, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In written testimony, The National Organization of Veterans' Advocates, Inc. (NOVA) strongly encouraged The Committee on Veterans' Affairs 
U.S. House of Representatives 
Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs to vote in favor of the Ruth Moore Act of 2013. The Ruth Moore Act is also known as H.R. 671.

Committee Chairman Jon Runyan (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Dina Titus (D-NV) invited NOVA to submit testimony for the April 16, 2013 hearing on the Ruth Moore Act.

The Ruth Moore Act, introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), would amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the disability compensation evaluation procedure of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for veterans with mental health conditions related to military sexual trauma (MST). According to a press release distributed by the office of Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, the Ruth Moore Act would make it easier for veterans who are victims of sexual assault in the military to get the benefits due to them.

In his testimony, Matthew D. Hill, attorney at Hill & Ponton and Treasurer of NOVA, demonstrated that a vote in favor of the Ruth Moore Act would be in the best interest of both veterans and the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA).

Hill cited the high incidence of sexual assault in the military and the reluctance of victims to report military sexual trauma. Over 50 percent of female veterans and over 35 percent of male veterans report experiencing sexual harassment in the military. (Source: ptsd.va.gov) In 2011, the Pentagon reported that an estimated 19,000 male and female service members were sexually assaulted, yet less than 14 percent of these crimes were reported. Hill stated, "Victims of sexual assaults are afraid to report the crime, especially likely when the assailant is a superior: the person to whom the victim is instructed to report in these situations. The nature of military service discourages reporting both implicitly as well as explicitly. Even when the service member does make a report of the assault, these reports are rarely documented or associated with the veteran's service records."

Hill's testimony on the Ruth Moore Act characterized the existing regulation as imposing an often insurmountable burden on the victims of military sexual assault. Currently, military sexual assault victims are required to: 1. Receive a diagnosis of a medical or mental health issue, 2. Prove that an event (a "stressor") happened to them while they served in the military and 3. Demonstrate a link between the stressor and the medical/mental health issues. Hill argued that "Victims of military sexual assault should not have the burden of corroborating their in-service sexual assaults. Proving that these events occurred is not merely painful, it is often impossible." The Ruth Moore Act would allow a statement from the military sexual assault survivor as sufficient proof that the assault occurred.

In his closing testimony, Hill noted the inefficiencies of the current regulation, pointing out that processing in-service personal assault claims is far more arduous than other types of VA claims. Hill asserts that the Ruth Moore Act will help alleviate VA claim backlog and reduce military sexual trauma survivors' anxiety associated with filing a claim.

To illustrate the appalling consequences of the current regulation, Hill referred to the case of the woman for whom the legislation is named: "Ruth Moore's case is the quintessence of how these claims drag on and slow down the system. Moore had to fight VA for 23 years over her benefits--23 years of claims that did not go anywhere. All the while, she was suffering from depression and a sexually transmitted disease that she contracted from her attacker. Moore even had the benefit of the relaxed requirements of 38 C.F.R. 3.304(f) (5), yet it was not until 2009 that VA finally awarded her claim."

About NOVA:

NOVA is a not for profit 501(c)(6) educational membership organization incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1993. NOVA represents nearly 500 attorneys and agents assisting tens of thousands of our nation's military veterans, their widows and their families obtain VA benefits. NOVA members represent veterans before all levels of VA's disability claim process and the organization is a strong voice in support of legislation, like the Ruth Moore Act, that helps veterans receive the benefits they deserve. In 2000, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims recognized NOVA's work on behalf of veterans with the Hart T. Mankin Distinguished Service Award.

Matthew Hill is on the board of NOVA and a managing partner at Hill & Ponton, specializing in Veterans Disability Law. He oversees the NOVA committee responsible for organizing bi-annual training conferences on veterans' benefits. Hill also speaks at national seminars on veterans' benefits. He is a member of the Florida Bar Association, Orange County Bar Association and American Bar Association. For more information about Hill's views on the Ruth Moore Act, please contact Hill & Ponton at 1-888-477-2363 or info@hillandponton.com


CONTACT: Hill & Ponton 1-888-477-2363 info@hillandponton.com

Source:The Law Offices of Hill & Ponton, P.A.