By Debbie Gregory.
Congress’ annual defense authorization bill addresses some of the yearly basics, such as pay benefits and insurance coverage, but also spells out the rules regarding the topical subject of sexual assault and harassment.
In the benefits department, there is a proposed 2.4 percent pay raise for active duty troops. The raise will be needed to cover the increased cost of Tricare prescription costs.
Military spouses who get a new professional license or certification after a PCS will be reimbursed up to $500.
To address problems with sexual harassment and assault in the military and at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, military sexual trauma counseling and treatment will be broadened to be more inclusive. Special victims counsel will receive training to better assist victims of sexual assault, with an emphasis on the male victims, thought to be much more common than assaults on females, but much less reported..
In addition to the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, a new article to the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding “wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images” allows anyone charged to be brought before a court-martial.
This comes on the heels of the scandal involving active-duty Marines who shared nude pictures of female colleagues on a series of military-themed web sites. More than 40 Marines received some form of punishment for their involvement.
Also addressed in the bill are: Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance payments, which were due to end this year, but now are permanent for surviving military spouses; troop strength being increased by 20,000, with about ¾ of the number devoted to active duty troops, and the other ¼ devoted to the Reserves; mental health assessments as a part of the separation physical.