Blumenthal Asks President To Change Military’s Pre-Trial Process In Sex Assault Cases

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and two colleagues have asked the Obama administration to change the military’s pre-trial process in sexual assault cases, saying it allows victims to be questioned in an  “intimidating and degrading” manner, resulting in “a major chilling effect on sexual assault reporting.”

Blumenthal, a Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), wrote to President Barack Obama, in the wake of pre-trial hearings in a case where three former U.S.Naval Academy football players are accused of sexually assaulting a female academy midshipman. In the hearings, the woman was cross- examined for some 30 hours about such topics as her sexual practices and her underwear. The three lawmakers wrote in their letter that they were “shocked and alarmed” to learn that such questions are allowed in the process, formally called Article 32 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  Citing legal experts, they said the questioning would not be permitted in any civilian court and constitutes “unabashed abuse.”  They asked the Obama administration to immediately change the system to conform to Federal Court procedures. Article 32 is used to determine if there is probable cause for a case to go a court-martial trial.  It differs from a civilian procedure such as a Federal Grand Jury in a number of ways, including that it is public, permits the defendant to be present, and allows extensive questioning of the accuser by the defense attorney.  A Grand Jury is conducted in closed session and with participation restricted to presentation of evidence by the prosecution.

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Vets At Risk Of Suicide Not Getting Adequate Post-Discharge Care: Report

Nearly a third of veterans deemed at high risk for suicide don’t receive the recommended follow-up care after they’ve been discharged from Veterans Health Administration inpatient mental health facilities, according to a new report from the VA inspector general. The report — which comes as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs grapples with a rise in suicides that claim an estimated 22 veterans’ lives a day — recommends that the VA take action to improve post-discharge follow-up for patients with acute mental health problems.

The VA requires its mental health clinicians to evaluate patients considered at high risk for suicide at least weekly for the 30 days after their discharge from Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health care. But of 215 patients whose medical records were examined by the inspector general’s office, 65, or 30 percent, did not receive all of their follow-up evaluations, the report shows. Records of 33 percent of the 215 patients did not contain documentation that a suicide-prevention coordinator or other case manager had made attempts at contact. “Although MH (mental health) providers scheduled follow-up appointments prior to patient discharge, timely post-discharge MH evaluations were not consistently provided,” the report says.

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