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WASHINGTON (AP) - The House has approved a bill extending whistle-blower protection to members of the military who are victims of sexual assault.

The vote Thursday was 423-0 for the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana. The bill would require the inspector general to investigate allegations of retaliation against a service member who reports a rape or sexual assault.

The provision is already part of a sweeping defense policy bill that the House passed earlier this month. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The bill reflects Congress' effort to deal with the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year.

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