May 09, 2018

Warren and Perdue Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Military Sexual Assault Treatment

As Reports of Military Sexual Assault Increase, START Act Would Create Pilot to Support Clinical Programs for Servicemembers at Civilian Medical Centers; Massachusetts Medical Institutions' Specialized Care Would Complement DOD and VA Services

 Bill Text

Fact Sheet

Washington, DC - Today Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced the bipartisan Sexual Trauma Response and Treatment (START) Act to help military sexual assault survivors access critical treatment and support. Companion legislation was also introduced in the House of Representatives today.

The U.S. Department of Defense's (DOD) Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military released last week showed that reporting of sexual assault involving servicemembers increased by nearly 10 percent in 2017. Survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) can experience a variety of mental health challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. The START Act would establish a three-year pilot designed to assess the feasibility of using intensive outpatient programs at partner medical centers to treat servicemembers suffering from PTSD and related conditions as a result of military sexual trauma.

"With reports of sexual assault in the military on the rise, ensuring that servicemembers can get treatment for post-traumatic stress is powerfully important," Sen. Warren said. "Massachusetts is home to world-class medical institutions whose specialized care can complement DOD and VA services. This bipartisan bill would help improve our understanding of how to treat military sexual trauma and would help more survivors access care."

"Ensuring the health and well-being of our service members will always be critical to our national security. This is one of the most important duties of Congress," said Senator Perdue.  "As the Department of Defense works to prevent assault within its ranks, this effort will help us improve medical research, best practices, and treatments for our service members. Thank you to all of our servicewomen and men for your commitment to protecting our country." 

“The START Act is one more tool in the toolbox to combat the scourge of sexual assault in the military and improve lives,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), who co-sponsored the START Act in the House. “This bill will allow servicemembers suffering from the effects of military sexual trauma to receive comprehensive health care that meets their physical and mental health needs. The bill will also allow for the development of best practices for the care of MST, ensuring survivors are receiving the best care possible, and provide care and support for the family members of MST survivors. I appreciated working with leaders on both sides of the aisle on this legislation that will improve the lives of both servicemembers and their families.”   

In Massachusetts, programs like Home Base - a partnership of the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital - have worked to provide treatment for servicemembers suffering from PTSD. Home Base supports the START Act. The Wounded Warrior Project has also announced its support for the legislation.

"We appreciate Senator Warren's leadership in championing this effort and believe this legislation is an important step in ensuring that survivors of military sexual assault trauma have the support they need and deserve," said retired Brigadier General Jack Hammond, Executive Director for Home Base, the largest private-sector clinic in the country treating the invisible wounds of war, including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and co-occurring substance use disorders. "The invisible wounds that our injured warriors struggle with every day have devastating long-term consequences on their health, yet too often they have difficulty seeking and getting timely and effective care for these conditions. Through the establishment of this bill, we can guarantee our Service Members and Veterans in the Commonwealth receive the best possible care to recover, heal, and move forward with their lives."

A fact sheet about the legislation is available here, and bill text is available here.