Rep. Garcia working with Guillen family to improve communication between Army and families
WASHINGTON, D.C. (KTRK) -- Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia provided an update Friday on the push for new legislation in the aftermath of Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen's murder.
Garcia went into detail on the bill that was proposed this week by Congresswoman Speier in its first hearing with the House Armed Services Subcommittee.
Primarily, the bill would let service members file sexual assault and harassment claims to a third party, rather than their chain of command.
Garcia said the bill also helps ensure the military provides monetary damages in the case of negligence by the military.
She did note, however, that the Guillen family has not requested damages at this time.
Garcia emphasized that the bill is more of a reform package for the military's handling of sexual assault cases.
"I've always been very concerned about the communications between the family members and the Department of the Army," Garcia said.
She says the new bill works to improve communication with the Army and military families when it comes to ongoing investigations.
"It's amazing to me that some bases actually close when they lose a weapon, but they didn't close when they lost a soldier," she said in disbelief.
Garcia said her office is working to review all programs in the military when it comes to sexual harassment prevention and reporting.
One out of three women experiencing sexual misconduct in the military are not reporting, according to Garcia.
She noted that she believes the proposed bill will pass in the end.
"I think the bill will move and it will be a lasting legacy of Vanessa Guillen," she said.
During the Guillen family's trip to Washington, they also met with President Donald Trump.
During a meeting between family members and Trump at the White House on Thursday, the president told them that they have his support and that he will personally help with funeral expenses.
"If you need help with the funeral financially, I will help," the president told the family in the Oval Office.
Before the meeting, family members expressed their purpose on taking Vanessa's story to the top.
"The president is talking to me. I'm not nervous to speak to him because this has to stop. I don't want to hear another woman or man was found dead at Fort Hood. I don't want to hear another woman or man was sexually assaulted, abused or raped," said Lupe Guillen, Vanessa's sister.
Ahead of the meeting with the president, several dozen demonstrators joined the family at a rally calling for Fort Hood officials to be held accountable for Guillen's death and for better investigations of harassment in the military.
"Fort Hood is supposed to be held accountable. Leadership has to be held accountable," said Lupe, while speaking to a crowd outside the U.S. Capitol.
Supporters marched from the rally at the U.S. Capitol to the White House.
"We are here to demand justice for Vanessa," said the family's attorney, Natalie Khawam.
The proposed bill comes after hundreds of Fort Hood service members have come forward with their experience on the base.
"In an institution that prides itself in cohesiveness to leave no soldier, we are failing," said California Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
Supporters are hoping by making their voices heard, Vanessa's won't be lost.