Assemblywoman Russell’s bill to support veterans who endured sexual trauma passes Assembly
Monday, June 13, 2016 - 5:43 am

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) announced that legislation she authored requiring the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs to provide assistance to veterans who experienced military sexual trauma (MST) during their military service (A.7260A) has passed the Assembly on Wednesday.

Military sexual trauma refers to sexual assault or repeated threatening sexual harassment that took place during a veteran’s service and can be a stressor for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Russell represents the 116th Assembly District, which includes all the St. lawrence County towns along the St. Lawrence River, plus Ogdnsburg,Canton and Potsdam, .

This bill would require the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs to develop a plan to provide assistance and benefits for veterans who experienced sexual trauma while on active duty or during military training.

The legislation would also require county and city veterans service agencies, including the Jefferson County Veterans Service Agency and the St. Lawrence County Veterans Department, to assist members of the armed forces by reporting information on MST.

“MST continues to be a serious issue that requires immediate solutions,”

Assemblywoman Russell said. “The brave members of our armed forces who have defended our country, including the men and women who were stationed at Fort Drum, shouldn’t have to wait any longer to have an adequate support system in place to help them on their path to recovery. The time to act is now.”

There were 6,083 reported assaults in Fiscal Year 2015, approximately a 180 percent increase from the prior fiscal year, according to a study released by the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials estimate nearly nine out of every 10 of sexual crimes that occur in the military go unreported. The Department of Veterans Affairs medical staff treated more than 68,000 veterans in 2010 who reported they had suffered some form of sexual trauma during their military service.

This marks the fifth consecutive year the bill has passed the state Assembly. It has yet to gain the support of the New York State Senate, “As chair of the Women Veterans Subcommittee and a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I understand that our service members can no longer afford inaction on this issue,” Assemblywoman Russell said. “I call on members of the state Senate to join us in support of this bill. We owe it to those who have served our country to enact this important piece of legislation.”

The bill was passed on the same day Assemblywoman Russell introduced a resolution oasking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to proclaim June 12 as Women Veterans Recognition Day in New York State.

She noted there are currently 66,000 known women veterans from New York State.

It also came on the 68th anniversary of the signing of the Women's Armed Forces Service Act of 1948 by President Harry S. Truman.