Last week a collaborative effort by the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Connecticut, along with the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, shed light on some alarming statistics of how the VA handles military sexual trauma (MST) claims. Unfortunately this new data shows that the VA is granting compensation benefits for MST at a significantly lower rate than they grant disability benefits for PTSD from other causes such as combat or fear of hostile military/terrorist activity.
There are various reasons that VA benefits for military sexual trauma resulting in disabling PTSD are harder to get. Just because it is easy to understand why this might be the case, it does not make it right.
Proof of PTSD from Military Sexual Trauma
For the most part, combat can be very well documented. The easiest way is if one’s DD214 lists any combat medals/ribbons that were awarded. Furthermore, being stationed at a base on the day a suicide bomber comes knocking on the front door could cause someone to be in fear of hostile military/terrorist activity, even though they did not engage in combat because they were assigned to the kitchen.
On the other hand, proof that a sexual assault took place is much harder to come by. The key reason, just as it is in the civilian world, is because the crime may just go unreported. This is especially difficult because a military unit is a tight group that fosters strong discipline and following authority. Victims may be afraid to report the crime if a commanding officer is a perpetrator, or because they do not want to be processed out. Victims tend to hide the assault from their parents because they do not want them to worry. Do not get me wrong, there are times when the crimes are reported; however, it is a matter of whether it is actually documented. Too many times the matter is swept under the rug so that the balance of power is not disrupted.
Statistics on MST-Related PTSD
Amongst other statistics, the report found:
- For the years 2008 to 2012, the grant rate for disability compensation due to MST-related PTSD was between 16.5% and 29.6% less each year than other PTSD claims.
- Overall, women’s PTSD claims were granted approximately 10% less than men’s PTSD claims, likely because women make more MST-related PTSD claims than men.
- Male victims of MST are approved even less than women with the same claims.
- The lowest grant rates among Regional Offices with at least 40 MST claims in 2012 were St. Paul, Detroit and St. Louis. Meanwhile the ROs in Nashville and Los Angeles tend to be better.
Statistics show that MST cases are tougher to win than regular PTSD cases, and regular PTSD cases can be tough enough as it is. When it comes down to your word versus no word, the VA will generally side with no word. But do not let that discourage you. The cases can be won with the right approach. There are alternate sources of evidence that can be used to prove the assault took place, even if there is no documentation.
Get Legal Help with VA Benefits for Military Sexual Trauma
If you are struggling with your claim for MST-related PTSD, call on the experienced attorneys at Bosley & Bratch. This is your case. Your life. You lived through this horror. Do not go through the claim process alone. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes may be all that is needed.