Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Backs Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment Act
Legislation would allow access to non-DoD/VA medical care for assault survivors
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today announced her support and co-sponsorship of the Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act (H.R. 3775). Currently, military sexual trauma (MST) survivors face bureaucratic red-tape that often gets in the way of their seeking treatment from qualified, experienced providers outside the Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system and TRICARE. The Military SAVE Act would give these survivors the option to seek reimbursable care from non-VA/TRICARE medical providers who can best provide the care these victims need.
“The tens of thousands of military sexual assault survivors in our ranks must be able to receive the proper mental and physical care after experiencing violent sexual trauma,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who has also advocated for military justice reform to serve assault victims. “These brave survivors who have stepped forward as they seek care, deserve to have more control over their own health decisions, particularly who they get care from. Sexual assault survivors have unique needs as a result of their traumatic experiences; they shouldn’t be forced to share personal and highly emotional experiences with a doctor who is not best-equipped to treat them. The Military SAVE Act gives survivors a chance to recover and heal under the care of a trusted healthcare provider.”
Currently, a victim can only seek treatment outside of TRICARE or the VA health care system if:
(1) in the opinion of the Department of Defense (DOD) or VA employee, a TRICARE or VA facility is unable to treat the victim;
(2) the victim is believed to live outside a reasonable travel distance from a TRICARE or VA health care facility; or
(3) a DOD or VA employee issues an official referral or letter of authorization.
To give military sexual assault survivors access to healthcare providers that meet their unique needs, the Military SAVE Act creates the following process:
- Step One: File a claim and obtain a voucher – A victim of MST goes into their local TRICARE or VA health care facility to officially file a report and sign an affidavit that they are a victim of MST. This provides the DOD or the VA an account of the incident, notifies the Departments that this person is eligible to seek out-of-system treatment, and gives the authority for the victim to schedule appointments with an out-of-system provider. The Departments will then issue the victim a voucher that entitles the private provider to be reimbursed at a set amount.
- Step Two: Find a provider who will see you – The MST victim contacts private providers to make sure they will accept the voucher/reimbursement from the DOD/VA, and then schedules an appointment.
- Step Three: Go to the doctor – Victim sees the private provider.
- Step Four: Provider bills the VA or DOD.
- Step Five: VA or DOD reimburses provider – TRICARE and/or the VA verifies that the individual filed an initial MST claim, and then pays/reimburses the provider at pre-set amounts.
The legislation has earned the endorsement of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) and the National Military Family Association (NMFA).