Courtney says more military personnel may seek treatment for sexual trauma
Norwich — At a meeting of his Veterans Advisory Board on Monday, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, told the head of the VA Connecticut healthcare system that there might be an uptick in people accessing VA services.
Courtney authored language included in a massive defense policy bill passed recently by Congress to expand sexual trauma counseling and treatment to members of the National Guard and Reserves. The bill still has to be signed by President Donald Trump, and Congress must still find a way to pay for the $700 billion measure.
A technicality in an existing law prevented most members of the guard and reserves from using the military sexual trauma program at the VA. Under a 2014 law, active duty members were authorized to access services and counseling through the VA's MST program without a referral from the Department of Defense. The thinking was that service members would feel more comfortable seeking care outside of their chain of command or military treatment facilities.
It appears, though, that the initial 2014 law has yet to be implemented.
"Despite the VA having reported to have begun collaborating with Department of Defense Health Affairs to discuss the implementation of this vital legislation, our review of the situation reveals very disturbing findings," said Kate O'Hare Palmer, chairwoman of the Women Veterans Committee of Vietnam Veterans of America, in an emailed statement. "We have learned that three years after this legislative victory, the program has not been implemented—this, despite the acknowledgement that the implementation of authorizations included in this legislation for VA counseling, care, and services is urgently needed for the health, wellbeing, and safety of these survivors."