Update on Exemption for PTSD (MST) Counseling on Security Clearance

Office of Director of NSAActive Duty: Please be warned that the counseling for Military Sexual Trauma was only exempt from the security clearance questionnaire as interim guidance. This means that the ruling was only temporary. We need you to contact Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Jon Tester and let them know that the National Intelligence Agency needs to make this policy permanent. There is no reason that it should not be included as an exemption with the counseling for combat PTSD, spousal counseling, and grief counseling.

September 17, 2013: Letter to DNI Clapper (10/24/13 03:29 PM PST)

Read more: http://pingree.house.gov/press-releases/tester-pingree-question-intelligence-director-over-security-clearance-reversal2/

Tester, Pingree question Intelligence Director over security clearance reversal

Office of Director of NSALawmakers vow to continue fighting to protect survivors of sexual assault

Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) are demanding that the U.S. Director of National Intelligence once again eliminate a requirement that forces survivors of sexual assault in the military to declare whether they sought counseling for sexual trauma when applying for a security clearance.

Tester and Pingree successfully overturned the policy in April after hearing from veterans and service members from Montana and Maine, but the government reversed course in the final version of the security clearance questionnaire released this summer.

Before the change, job applicants seeking a security clearance had to list whether they had received mental health counseling as a result of a sexual assault, and if so, allow an investigator full access to their health records.

Veterans and veterans’ advocacy groups told Tester and Pingree the policy discouraged qualified service members from applying for important national security positions and discouraged them from getting the counseling they need. The Defense Department estimates that there may have been as many as 26,000 instances of “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012, with the vast majority of cases reported by women.

“We strongly urge you to reconsider this matter and reinstitute the explicit exemption for survivors of sexual assault,” Tester and Pingree told Intelligence Director James Clapper. “As you recognized in April, we need to do everything we can to support survivors of sexual assault – not keep them from getting the care they need or jeopardizing their ability to provide for themselves and their families.”

“Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) is grateful to Senator Tester and Congresswoman Pingree for their dedication to ensuring military sexual assault survivors’ careers are not stunted or adversely affected because they sought counseling to cope with the assault,” said Anu Bhagwati, SWAN executive director and former Marine Corps captain. “SWAN has already heard from service members that are confused by the recently removed exemption for military sexual assault survivors and are now hesitant to seek help. We urge Director Clapper to reinstate the explicit exemption for sexual assault survivors.”

Tester and Pingree have been in contact with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other officials about the issue over the last two years. The officials responded by altering the security clearance questionnaire to better handle sensitive information, but Tester and Pingree sought a complete policy change.

There are multiple forms of counseling that do not impede an applicant from securing a security clearance, including family counseling and counseling for combat stress.

September 17, 2013: Letter to DNI Clapper (10/24/13 03:29 PM PST)

Original: http://pingree.house.gov/press-releases/tester-pingree-question-intelligence-director-over-security-clearance-reversal2/

Update on the Military Justice Improvement Act (2013)

MJIAIn January, veterans were able to address the House Armed Services Committee regarding crime and non combat death in the military. The testimony was on the heels of what was referred to in the media as the “Lackland Sex Scandal.” The veterans specifically emphasized that crime is military wide and not specific to the Air Force. The veterans also shared that most service members are not reporting because of a fear of retaliation.  Shortly after the testimony was given, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the combat exclusion policy was lifted and the media was poised to move in that direction.

Then in March, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asked for a hearing on Military Sexual Assault with those on the personnel subcommittee to the Senate Armed Services Committee. At that time four other veterans testified and affirmed that removing the Chain of Command would have helped prevent their current situations due to the retaliation.

Senator Gillibrand announced in May that she was going to sponsor the Military Justice Improvement Act, which is a law that would restrict the Commanders from handling violent crimes of over a year or more sentence.  She introduced it to the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senator Carl Levin shut the whole thing down.  It was at this time that Senator Claire McCaskill, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Jon Tester, Senator Jim Inhofe, and Senator Levin started to fight for the Department of Defense and keep everything status quo.

Right now we are trying to get support from the other Senators to force the MJIA bill back on the table.  We have both Democrats and Republicans on board and recently Conservatives like Senator Rand Paul, Senator Chuck Grassley, and Senator Ted Cruz have signed on because they understand the constitutional aspect of this dilemma.  We should not be reporting violent crimes to our boss.  We should be reporting violent crimes to a legal authority of some sort. One person, ie the Commander, should not have sole discretion over whether or not we proceed with justice.

Please contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to sponsor legislation that mirrors that of the civilian justice system. Victims of crimes should report to police, the police should investigate the claims, the police should enter the information into the FBI national database, and then a prosecutor can make a decision as to whether one can move forward with a case in a court of law. A person’s claim needs to be corroborated in some way so that we have the evidence necessary to go to court, win, and put a criminal behind bars,