Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar was honored today for her work to help improve the lives of Minnesota’s veterans. Klobuchar received an award from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) for her efforts to help ensure veterans receive the support they deserve. Klobuchar led the effort to pass bipartisan legislation, signed into law last year, supporting survivors of sexual assault in the military. The bill ensures long-term preservation of sexual assault victims’ records, which can help veterans seek medical and disability assistance. Klobuchar led the successful effort to gather all 17 women senators as cosponsors of the bill before it became law.
“If an American in uniform becomes the victim of a sexual assault while serving their country, they shouldn’t have to fight to receive care and pursue justice,”Klobuchar said. “I am honored to receive this award and will continue to work to help ensure all of our veterans have the support they need and deserve.”
“We are grateful for all Senator Klobuchar has done to improve the lives of America’s veterans and we extend our utmost thanks for her leadership in passing this valuable legislation. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Klobuchar on future efforts to support our nation’s veterans,” said David Valtinson, Commander of the Minnesota Department of the Disabled American Veterans.
Until Klobuchar’s legislation was passed there was no coordinated policy across the U.S. service branches to ensure the preservation of medical and other reports connected with sexual trauma. Each service branch was left to develop its own policy, resulting in inconsistent recordkeeping and frequent destruction of records. Long-term preservation of records can help a victim seek medical and disability assistance, and certain records can also be used as evidence in a later crime involving the same perpetrator.
In recent years there has been an increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. According to the Department of Defense, there were 3,158 official reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2010. Because most incidents are not reported to a military authority, the Pentagon estimates this number represents only 13 to 14 percent of total assaults – making the total estimated number of sexual assaults in the military over 19,000 in 2010.
Research has shown that sexual trauma not only hurts the victims, but can also take a toll on their fellow servicemembers by severely undermining unit cohesion, morale, and overall force effectiveness.
Klobuchar’s Support for Survivors Act, much of which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, will:
· Require the Department of Defense to develop a policy to ensure the preservation of documents connected with reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.
· Ensure full privacy and identity protection for both the victim and the perpetrator, if known.
· Grant the VA access to documents only at the request of a servicemember, for the purpose of assisting with the processing of a disability compensation claim.
· Allow the Department of Defense to review the data (but not the names of the individuals mentioned in the reports) to improve research and reporting.
In addition to the Disabled American Veterans, Klobuchar’s efforts to support military sexual assault victims have been supported by the American Legion, AMVETS, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and the Wounded Warrior Project. The Support for Survivors Act was also endorsed by the Service Women’s Action Network.