What would you think if a soldier who actually committed such a “crime” was made to pay no penalty whatsoever for it – no criminal or civil penalty – is not even identified, investigated, and is allowed to remain anonymous, skating totally free while you and I are stuck with paying as much as $500,000 in lifetime benefits to the “victim.”?
Only in America could this happen – that’s what I would think.
If several lawmakers in Congress have their way that is exactly what will happen and the so-called “victims” will not have to produce any evidence that a “crime,” i.e. a sexual assault, ever occurred; all that’s necessary will be their word.
They’ll be able to walk into a VA office, claim they were raped years ago while in the service, that they’re suffering a disability because of it, present no evidence of the “crime,” cash in their chips, and walk out the door with their certified permission slip for lifetime benefits at taxpayer expense. The actual criminal wrongdoer need not even be named.
More than 85,000 veterans from as far back as Vietnam, up to 40% of them men, were treated last year alone for alleged injuries or illness stemming from often unreported sexual abuse in the military long after they have left the service; and 4,000 have sought disability benefits, a statistic which has roiled the Pentagon and been condemned by President Obama as "shameful and disgraceful."
Yes, it’s shameful and disgraceful alright – shameful and disgraceful that the rapists will skate free while the American taxpayers are stuck with the bill.
Sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment can trigger a variety of health problems, primarily post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, a condition the VA calls "military sexual trauma."
Of course I sympathize with anyone who has been raped and suffers damage. That’s why I have to wonder: why should military victims of rape, (which really has nothing to do with their military service), qualify for free health care and lifetime disability benefits but not ordinary citizen victims of rape?
Former soldier, Ruth Moore of Milbridge, Maine, began receiving treatment from a VA counseling center in 2003 -- 16 years after she was raped twice while she was stationed in Europe with the Navy. She continues to get counseling at least monthly for PTSD linked to the attacks and is also considered fully disabled.
"We can't cure me, but we can work on stability in my life and work on issues as they arrive," Moore said. She estimates the government's cost for her disability benefits and treatment could well exceed $500,000 over the course of her lifetime.
With all due respect to Ms. Moore, and I do absolutely sympathize with what happened to her, why is she still considered disabled 26 long years after she was sexually assaulted? Why can’t she work? Had it happened to her as an ordinary citizen she’d not be qualified for any benefits. She’d have to work for a living just like all the other victims of sexual assault crimes in America.
VA officials stress that any veteran who claims to have suffered military sexual trauma has access to free health care. "It really is the case that a veteran can simply walk through the door, say they've had this experience, and we will get them hooked up with care. There's no documentation required. They don't need to have reported it at the time," said Dr. Margret Bell, a member of the VA's military sexual trauma team.
Presently, documentation is required before a vet is entitled to disability benefits, but some veterans groups and congressional lawmakers support legislation designed to make it far easier for veterans to get a monthly disability payment.
They support allowing a veteran's statement alone to serve as the proof that an assault or harassment occurred. A veteran with a 100 percent rating and a spouse and child to support would get nearly $3,088 a month.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., are the lead sponsors of the legislation that would allow the veteran's word to serve as sufficient proof that an assault occurred. The legislation is named after Moore, who spent years fighting for disability benefits.
Right now, the burden of proof is stacked against sexual trauma survivors," said Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women's Action Network. "Ninety percent of 26,000 cases last year weren't even reported. So where is that evidence supposed to come from?"
Why were such cases not reported? Why should any claimant be allowed taxpayer funded disability benefits without having to prove their case? And why isn’t the rapist responsible at least to some degree? Why aren’t they punished? Why are the taxpayers punished?
The VA originally opposed Pingree's bill, saying the legislation didn't allow for the minimal evidence "needed to maintain the integrity of the claims process." But VA spokesman Josh Taylor now says that there's been a change of heart; the VA no longer opposes it.
"VA supports the goals of the legislation, and will continue to work with Congress on the best approach to accomplish it," Taylor said.
What do they care about issues of proof and minimal evidence to maintain the integrity of the claims process? There is no longer any such thing as integrity in the United States government. It’s not their money which will be used to pay the huge number of claims. It’s only taxpayer money. It’s a giant giveaway program just like all the other programs.
So the military rapists – the real wrongdoers in these cases -- will continue to skate free leaving us hapless taxpayers hooked.