Text: H.R.1092 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in House (02/07/2019)

 
[Congressional Bills 116th Congress]
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[H.R. 1092 Introduced in House (IH)]

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116th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 1092

   To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand health care and 
 benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for military sexual 
                    trauma, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                            February 7, 2019

Ms. Pingree (for herself, Ms. Brownley of California, Mrs. Dingell, Ms. 
Kuster of New Hampshire, Ms. Moore, Mr. Rush, Ms. Norton, Ms. DelBene, 
  Mr. Grijalva, Ms. Lofgren, and Mr. Sablan) introduced the following 
bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and in 
    addition to the Committee on Armed Services, for a period to be 
subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration 
  of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee 
                               concerned

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
   To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand health care and 
 benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for military sexual 
                    trauma, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Servicemembers and Veterans 
Empowerment and Support Act of 2019''.

SEC. 2. TECHNOLOGICAL ABUSE DEFINED.

    Section 101 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding 
at the end the following new paragraph:
            ``(37) The term `technological abuse' means behavior 
        intended to harm, threaten, intimidate, control, stalk, harass, 
        impersonate, or monitor another person, except as otherwise 
        permitted by law, that occurs via the Internet, social 
        networking sites, computers, mobile devices, cellular 
        telephones, apps, location tracking devices, instant messages, 
        text messages, or other forms of technology. Technological 
        abuse may include--
                    ``(A) unwanted, repeated telephone calls, text 
                messages, instant messages, or social media posts;
                    ``(B) non-consensual access of e-mail accounts, 
                texts or instant messaging accounts, social networking 
                accounts, or cellular telephone logs;
                    ``(C) attempting to control or restrict a person's 
                ability to access technology with the intent to isolate 
                them from support and social connection;
                    ``(D) using tracking devices or location tracking 
                software for the purpose of monitoring or stalking 
                another person's location;
                    ``(E) impersonation of a person with the intent to 
                deceive or cause harm through the use of spoofing 
                technology or the creation of fake email or social 
                media accounts; or
                    ``(F) pressuring for or sharing of another person's 
                private information, photographs, or videos without 
                their consent.''.

SEC. 3. EXPANSION OF COVERAGE BY THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS OF 
              COUNSELING AND TREATMENT FOR SEXUAL TRAUMA TO INCLUDE 
              TECHNOLOGICAL ABUSE OF A SEXUAL NATURE.

    Section 1720D(a)(1) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by 
inserting ``technological abuse of a sexual nature,'' after ``battery 
of a sexual nature,''.

SEC. 4. STANDARD OF PROOF FOR SERVICE-CONNECTION OF MENTAL HEALTH 
              CONDITIONS RELATED TO MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA.

    (a) Standard of Proof.--Section 1154 of title 38, United States 
Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:
    ``(c)(1) In the case of any veteran who claims that a covered 
mental health condition was incurred in or aggravated by military 
sexual trauma during active military, naval, or air service, the 
Secretary shall accept as sufficient proof of service-connection a 
diagnosis of such mental health condition by a mental health 
professional together with satisfactory lay or other evidence of such 
trauma and an opinion by the mental health professional that such 
covered mental health condition is related to such military sexual 
trauma, if consistent with the facts of such service, notwithstanding 
the fact that there is no official record of such incurrence or 
aggravation in such service, and, to that end, shall resolve every 
reasonable doubt in favor of the veteran. Service-connection of such 
covered mental health condition may be rebutted by clear and convincing 
evidence to the contrary. The reasons for granting or denying service-
connection in each case shall be recorded in full.
    ``(2) In this subsection:
            ``(A) The term `covered mental health condition' means 
        post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or other 
        mental health diagnosis described in the current version of the 
        Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published 
        by the American Psychiatric Association that the Secretary 
        determines to be related to military sexual trauma.
            ``(B) The term `military sexual trauma' means, with respect 
        to a veteran, a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of 
        a sexual nature, technological abuse of a sexual nature, or 
        sexual harassment in line of duty.''.
    (b) Use of Evidence in Evaluating Disability Claims Involving 
Military Sexual Trauma.--
            (1) In general.--Subchapter VI of chapter 11 of such title 
        is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
``Sec. 1164. Evaluation of claims involving military sexual trauma
    ``(a) Nonmilitary Sources of Evidence.--(1) In carrying out section 
1154(c) of this title, the Secretary shall ensure that if a claim for 
compensation under this chapter is received by the Secretary for a 
covered mental health condition (as defined in such section) based on 
military sexual trauma experienced by a veteran during active military, 
naval, or air service, evidence from sources other than official 
records of the Department of Defense regarding the veteran's service 
may corroborate the veteran's account of the assault, battery, or 
harassment.
    ``(2) Examples of evidence described in paragraph (1) include the 
following:
            ``(A) Records from law enforcement authorities, rape crisis 
        centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals, and 
        physicians.
            ``(B) Pregnancy tests and tests for sexually transmitted 
        diseases.
            ``(C) Statements from family members, roommates, other 
        members of the Armed Forces or veterans, and clergy.
    ``(b) Behavior Changes Corroborating Evidence.--(1) In carrying out 
section 1154(c) of this title, the Secretary shall ensure that evidence 
of a behavior change following military sexual trauma is one type of 
relevant evidence that may be found in sources described in such 
subsection.
    ``(2) Examples of behavior changes that may be relevant evidence of 
military sexual trauma include the following:
            ``(A) A request for a transfer to another military duty 
        assignment.
            ``(B) Deterioration in work performance.
            ``(C) Substance abuse.
            ``(D) Episodes of depression, panic attacks, or anxiety 
        without an identifiable cause.
            ``(E) Unexplained economic or social behavior changes.
    ``(c) Notice and Opportunity To Supply Evidence.--The Secretary may 
not deny a claim of a veteran for compensation under this chapter for a 
covered mental health condition that is based on military sexual trauma 
without first--
            ``(1) advising the veteran that evidence described in 
        subsections (a) and (b) may constitute credible corroborating 
        evidence of the military sexual trauma; and
            ``(2) allowing the veteran an opportunity to furnish such 
        corroborating evidence or advise the Secretary of potential 
        sources of such evidence.
    ``(d) Review of Evidence.--In reviewing a claim for compensation 
described in subsection (a)(1), for any evidence received with such 
claim that is described in subsection (a) or (b), the Secretary may 
submit such evidence to such medical or mental health professional as 
the Secretary considers appropriate, including clinical and counseling 
experts employed by the Department, to obtain a credible opinion as to 
whether the evidence indicates that military sexual trauma occurred.
    ``(e) Point of Contact.--The Secretary shall ensure that each 
document provided to a veteran relating to a claim for compensation 
described in subsection (a)(1) includes contact information for an 
appropriate point of contact with the Department.
    ``(f) Specialized Teams.--(1) The Secretary shall establish 
specialized teams to process claims for compensation described in 
subsection (a)(1).
    ``(2) The Secretary shall ensure that members of teams established 
under paragraph (1) are trained to identify markers indicating military 
sexual trauma.
    ``(3) In any case in which the Secretary obtains conflicting 
evidence relating to the substantiation of a claim for compensation 
described in subsection (a)(1), the Secretary shall give more credence 
to the evidence that is more beneficial to the claimant.
    ``(g) Definitions.--In this section, the terms `covered mental 
health condition' and `military sexual trauma' has the meanings given 
such terms in section 1154(c) of this title.''.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of such chapter is amended by adding at the end the 
        following new item:

``1164. Evaluation of claims involving military sexual trauma.''.
    (c) Annual Reports.--
            (1) In general.--Subchapter VI of chapter 11 of title 38, 
        United States Code, as amended by subsection (b), is further 
        amended by adding at the end the following new section:
``Sec. 1165. Reports on claims for disabilities incurred or aggravated 
              by military sexual trauma
    ``(a) Reports.--Not later than March 1, 2020, and not less 
frequently than once each year thereafter through 2027, the Secretary 
shall submit to Congress a report on covered claims submitted during 
the previous fiscal year to identify and track the consistency of 
decisions across regional offices.
    ``(b) Elements.--Each report under subsection (a) shall include the 
following:
            ``(1) The number of covered claims submitted to or 
        considered by the Secretary during the fiscal year covered by 
        the report.
            ``(2) Of the covered claims listed under paragraph (1), the 
        number and percentage of such claims--
                    ``(A) submitted by each sex;
                    ``(B) that were approved, including the number and 
                percentage of such approved claims submitted by each 
                sex; and
                    ``(C) that were denied, including the number and 
                percentage of such denied claims submitted by each sex.
            ``(3) Of the covered claims listed under paragraph (1) that 
        were approved, the number and percentage, disaggregated by sex, 
        of claims assigned to each rating percentage.
            ``(4) Of the covered claims listed under paragraph (1) that 
        were denied--
                    ``(A) the three most common reasons given by the 
                Secretary under section 5104(b)(1) of this title for 
                such denials; and
                    ``(B) the number of denials that were based on the 
                failure of a veteran to report for a medical 
                examination.
            ``(5) The number of covered claims that, as of the end of 
        the fiscal year covered by the report, are pending and, 
        separately, the number of such claims on appeal.
            ``(6) For the fiscal year covered by the report, the 
        average number of days that covered claims take to complete, 
        beginning on the date on which the claim is submitted.
            ``(7) A description of the training that the Secretary 
        provides to employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration, 
        or such contractors or other individuals as the Secretary 
        considers appropriate, specifically with respect to covered 
        claims, including the frequency, length, and content of such 
        training.
    ``(c) Definitions.--In this section:
            ``(1) The term `covered claims' means claims for disability 
        compensation submitted to the Secretary based on a covered 
        mental health condition alleged to have been incurred or 
        aggravated by military sexual trauma.
            ``(2) The terms `covered mental health condition' and 
        `military sexual trauma' have the meanings given such terms in 
        section 1154(c) of this title.''.
            (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of such chapter, as amended by subsection (b), is 
        further amended by adding at the end the following new item:

``1165. Annual reports on claims for disabilities incurred or 
                            aggravated by military sexual trauma.''.
    (d) Effective Date.--Subsection (c) of section 1154 of title 38, 
United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall apply with 
respect to any claim for disability compensation under laws 
administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs for which no final 
decision has been made before the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 5. INFORMATION FOR MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES REGARDING 
              AVAILABILITY OF SERVICES AT THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS 
              AFFAIRS.

    (a) In General.--The Secretary of Defense shall inform members of 
the Armed Forces, using mechanisms available to the Secretary, of the 
eligibility of such members for services at the Department of Veterans 
Affairs.
    (b) Information From Sexual Assault Response Coordinators.--The 
Secretary shall ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators of the 
Department of Defense advise members of the Armed Forces who report 
instances of military sexual trauma regarding the eligibility of such 
members for services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
    (c) Military Sexual Trauma Defined.--In this section, the term 
``military sexual trauma'' means psychological trauma described in 
section 1720D(a)(1) of title 38, United States Code.

SEC. 6. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON ACCESS TO DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 
              FACILITIES BY RESERVISTS FOR COUNSELING AND TREATMENT 
              RELATING TO MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA.

    (a) In General.--It is the sense of Congress that members of the 
reserve components of the Armed Forces, including members of the 
National Guard, should be able to access all health care facilities of 
the Department of Veterans Affairs to receive counseling and treatment 
relating to military sexual trauma and not just at Vet Centers.
    (b) Definitions.--In this section:
            (1) Military sexual trauma.--The term ``military sexual 
        trauma'' means psychological trauma described in section 
        1720D(a)(1) of title 38, United States Code.
            (2) Vet center.--The term ``Vet Center'' has the meaning 
        given that term in section 1712A(h) of such title.
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