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Congressman: I-Team investigation inspired support for legislation

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U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A Channel 4 I-Team investigation that exposed how the military awarded benefits to a female National Guard soldier after she accused her superior of rape inspired a Tennessee congressman to cosponsor legislation designed to change the way sexual assaults are investigated.

Although that bill didn't pass the U.S. Senate late last week, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN, said he hopes the bill comes before the House for a vote and encourage senators to vote again on the bill at a later time.

Cooper said he saw the Channel 4 I-Team investigation into the female soldier and how she says her commanders told her that they couldn't investigate her rape claims, and how she ultimately got benefits due to "PTSD secondary to sexual assault."

"I'm glad that that case made the TV. So many don't," Cooper said.

Our investigation showed her claims that Sgt. Paul McCallister raped her while they were both serving in the Tennessee National Guard.

The soldier agreed to speak about her claims when McCallister was named police chief in the town of Burns, TN.

McCallister was never charged and was never criminally investigated and has long disputed the rape claims.

"They're all false," McCallister told the Channel 4 I-Team last year.

But after our investigation aired, the military awarded the soldier benefits, saying she had suffered from PTSD secondary to sexual assault.

"They're finally understanding that this is going on in the military," the soldier said.

Cooper said after seeing that story, he decided to cosponsor legislation that would have taken the power to investigate sexual assault claims away from military commanders and instead give the cases to independent military investigators.

"When you have 26,000 reported cases of sexual assault in the military, they don't seem to be doing a good job of handling it within the chain of command," Cooper said.

But the bill failed by five votes late last week in the Senate after the Pentagon strongly came out against it.

"It is harder to hold someone accountable for failure to act if you reduce their power to act," said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI.

Cooper hopes the bill comes up for a vote in the House, and he plans to continue speaking to senators to change their votes.

"I've lost my patience with this one. Enough is enough," Cooper said.

The female soldier said her superiors in the National Guard told her there was nothing they could do and that she would have to go to police.

She did file a police report but said she was discouraged by the district attorney's office from taking further action because it would be difficult to prove. The local district attorney told the Channel 4 I-Team he would have prosecuted the case, but she withdrew.

The soldier said ultimately getting the benefits was a small victory.

On Monday, the Senate did approve a scaled-back version of the legislation that would stop the military from using what's known as a "good soldier defense" to raise doubts a crime had been committed.

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