Invisible Wounds – Making History on the Hill
Last week, we gathered in room 334 in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill to witness history in the making: the first ever Congressional hearing dedicated exclusively to improving the VA claims process for Military Sexual Trauma survivors.
A big THANK YOU to all of the supporters, survivors, advocacy organizations and policy makers who were in attendance, and to each and every one of you, who has raised your voice to show Congress and the rest of Washington that survivors of Military Sexual Trauma are not invisible.
The hearing, aptly titled “Invisible Wounds: Examining the Disability Compensation Benefits Process for Victims of Military Sexual Trauma,” contained insightful, informative, and incredibly moving testimonies. We were especially thrilled to hear from Invisible No More supporter Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, President and Founder of Give an Hour, who told Congress about the lasting internal, and often invisible, scars of Military Sexual Trauma.
Across the board, the members of Congress present seemed shocked that the problem was so severe. Which is why we’re thankful to Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) for bringing some much needed attention to this issue, and for starting the reform process.
We couldn’t have agreed more with Rep. Tim Walz's (D-MN) sentiment that the military has the potential to set a huge precedent and herald major change in how this country handles sexual assault. And as he said, “This is too important for us not to figure out something big.”
TAKE ACTION NOW! Stand With Us to hold the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to account!
Call Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Chairman, Rep. Jon Runyan at 202.225.4765. Tell him to continue to stand with us and stand for us. If you’re a survivor, tell him about your experience with the VA. We need his leadership to reform the VA’s Military Sexual Trauma claims process.
Give the subcommittee members who took the time to attend the hearing a public shout out for their time and commitment to the issue:
Chairman Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ) @RepJonRunyan
Ranking Member Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) @RepMcNerney
Rep. Robert L. Turner (R-NY) @USRepBobTurner
Rep Michael Michaud (D-ME) @RepMikeMichaud
Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)
Tell members who did not attend the hearing that we need them at the table to help reform the VA MST claims process:
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) @RepDLamborn
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) @RepBuerkle
Rep Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) @RepStutzman
Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) @RepJohnBarrow
Special thanks to these members of Congress who, although not on the Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs subcommittee, took part in the hearing:
After the complaint was made to my commander, an investigation insued. I was supposed to be protected and kept abreast of the situation and how it was progressing. This did not happen at all, instead I was stalked, followed and harrassed by this man because he was angry at me for turning him in. During this time my Commander was sent back to the states because his wife became terminally ill. I was left alone and vulnerable. My first Sergeant thought that it would be a good idea to take me in his room and question me about the allegations. He basically told me that I was over reacting and more or less made it all up.
Nothing was done to this soldier, instead I ended up in the hospital with panic and anxiety attacks, and was released from duty. Furthermore, I reported all of this to the Psychologist (who happened to be a colonel for the Army), as to why I was there. Instead of the Psychologist reporting the importance as to why I was there, he only reported discussions that we had pertaining to my childhood (which by the way, was a normal childhood), lied and accused my father of being abusive. I was not able to see my records until I requested them a year later, because I was trying to join the police force. I was angry and traumatized with what I read. Nothing AT ALL was mentioned. He made me sound like I was a mentally unstable individual. Just to protect the Army. I called again to report this and I was hung up on and treated like I was dirt.
These incidences ruined my chance to work as a civilian police officer, and it also ruined my dream to be a career soldier. I am glad to now see that women AND men in the armed forces are being protected. I am just sad that this was not available when I was enlisted.
There is so much more that I could write about as to what actually took place with both of those lovely gentlemen, but I could probably write a book. If I knew then as a young female soldier that I know now as a middle aged single mother of two wonderful daughters, I would stand up for myself and fight to the end.