The treatment of our veterans is a central issue in the upcoming presidential election. As of now, our veterans are returning home to inadequate care. The rates of homelessness and suicide are unacceptably high among those who've served. Although these are extremely important issues, there is another problem which we have yet to see addressed.
In 2014, 76 percent of female soldiers reported sexual assault. 80 percent also reported sexual harassment. In the same year, 57 percent of men were assaulted. The men and women who serve in our military, who risk their lives for our freedoms, are not being protected. In fact, they are being punished for even reporting their assaults at all - 90 percent of those who report sexual assault are involuntarily discharged.
The reasons for involuntary discharge in these cases are usually said to be a personality disorder or other mental health issues. Those who report their sexual assaults lose more than just their military careers. To be clear, this is not an Honorary Discharge. Therefore, veterans face an even more difficult time finding work. The soldier also loses VA benefits due to the nature of their discharge. Healthcare, financial assistance, and educational assistance are all taken away from veterans due to an assault that was out of their control.
The Human Rights Watch interviewed many victims of sexual assault in the military. One such woman wondered:
"Why should I be discharged because I was raped? I did what I was supposed to do. Had I never come forward I truly believe I would still be in the Air Force."
One man said that he:
"[carries his] discharge as an official and permanent symbol of shame, on top of the trauma of the physical attack, the retaliation and its aftermath."
The treatment of soldiers who have suffered sexual assault is shameful. These men and women deserve better treatment. We must bring attention to the plight of veterans who have been failed by the military. Our future president must fight for the veterans and stop the unfair practices that plague the system.