(Washington, DC) - On Thursday, May 24, 2018, the House of Representatives voted 351 - 66 to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019. This annual bill, which sets the defense and national security policies of the United States, included the provisions of H.R. 5707, the Sexual Trauma Response and Treatment Act, which was introduced in May by Representative Steve Knight (R-CA).

H.R. 5707, also known as the START Act, would establish a pilot program within the Department of Defense to provide intensive outpatient programs to military service members who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to military sexual trauma (MST). The program would implement private-public partnerships to provide a holistic and integrated approach to treatment. This includes providing healthcare, counseling, family benefits, substance abuse assistance, and other measures.

Intended to operate as a testing ground for these new treatment options, the START Act also requires the Department of Defense to report back to Congress on the efficacy of the program and offer wider policy recommendations based on the findings.

"Military Sexual Trauma is a major challenge that threatens the capabilities of our troops, threatens national security, and can have long-term and severe effects on its victims." said Rep. Knight "If we are to properly maintain a dynamic and effective fighting force, it is vital that our men and women in uniform know they will be taken care of in the event that they fall victim abuse from other service members. With the growing integration of units in all of the branches, it's important that we provide the support and training necessary to maintain this sacred trust. The Sexual Trauma Response and Treatment Act will go a long way towards improving the care we provide MST victims and I am pleased it was included in this year's NDAA."

In a letter of support, Dr. John Mazziotta, Vice Chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences stated the following:

"Military sexual trauma can have life-threatening consequences for our service members and veterans. Our faculty and staff are all too familiar with these effects, including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and co-occurring substance abuse disorders." said Dr. Mazziotta "We believe your effort to establish intensive outpatient pilot programs to address these effects will have a profound impact on the survivors of military sexual trauma. Thank you again for your leadership on this important issue."

The full text of UCLA's letter can be read here.