Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get VA disability benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by sexual trauma they suffered while in the military. The VA is slowly coming around to recognizing the severe mental and social problems caused by Military Sexual Trauma.
MST is defined as unwanted contact ranging from sexual innuendo, to groping, to rape and it is a serious problem within military units. With the number of women veterans at an all time high, they represent the fastest growing military population. While the Pentagon has taken the lead with some very high profile programs to eliminate MST and punish offenders, one in every four female veterans say they experienced sexual harassment or assault during their time in the service.
For a number of reasons, it has been difficult for female vets to qualify for disability compensation for PTSD caused by sexual trauma. In many cases there is no paper trail to support MST claims. Critics say the military fosters a culture of denial and secrecy that discourages women from filing claims of sexual attack. Since many survivors of sexual trauma lack a traditional paper trail, VA officials who evaluate claims have to search for what they call markers. Markers are secondary evidence, which can give some indication that the traumatic event occurred. While the list of markers is long, it includes such evidence as records from law enforcement, rape crisis centers, hospitals or physicians; pregnancy tests; statements from family members or fellow service members; or social problems like divorce and substance abuse.
VA officials say that they are encouraging female veterans to reapply for benefits for PTSD caused by sexual abuse and that they are reopening old cases. We know how difficult it is for a veteran to fight for compensation and if the veteran has suffered due to a personal attack, the fight becomes even more complex. You may be frustrated, ashamed, or angry, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. If you are the victim of Military Sexual Trauma and your case has been denied, you have the right to appeal.