Almost three decades ago, a former Navy Sailor from Milbridge, Maine named Ruth Moore was raped twice by a superior officer during her service, and had applied for disability benefits after suffering from mental disorders that stemmed from these assaults. Though she fought for her rights for disability benefits for almost 20 years, it was only in 2009 when she was awarded with more than $400,000 in benefits.
Like Moore, there are a lot of uniformed personnel who had suffered sexual assault, but most of these incidents had gone unreported. Those who do place claims for disability benefits due to trauma caused by these assaults tend to have a difficult time in getting approved. Fortunately, talking to a veterans disability attorney can help a veteran get their due benefits, especially if their post-traumatic stress disorder was caused by sexual assault.
Defining Military Sexual Trauma
The Department of Veterans Affairs understands that numerous veterans have experienced sexual trauma, be it while serving in military or in civilian capacities. Military sexual trauma is defined as sexual assault, including rape, or repetitive and threatening sexual harassment. According to the Defense Department, there were over 19,000 sexual assaults that occurred in the military back in 2010, but only 13.5 percent of these were reported. Moreover, the Service Women’s Action Network estimates that while military sexual trauma is among the leading causes of PTSD among female veterans, two-thirds of sexual trauma claims have been rejected.
How the VA Approves MST Claims
Insufficient evidence is among the reasons why most disability claims stemming from military sexual assault have been rejected. The VA often requires veterans who suffered from sexual assaults to present police records, tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, journals or diaries, and statements from family and friends. They will also accept proof of behavioral changes on the veteran’s part, like evidence of an alcohol or drug problem, marital difficulties, and incidents of depression.
Recently, however, the House approved a bill named after Ruth Moore, calling for the VA to accept a statement from the survivor as sufficient proof that assault had occurred. This aims to make it easier for veterans who are victims of sexual abuse to acquire disability benefits. These changes in legislation might seem overwhelming at first glance, but talking to a disability benefits lawyer like one working with Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law can help you understand everything there is to know about filing a claim for PTSD caused by sexual trauma.
House OKs bill to help veterans who have suffered sexual assault, Stars and Stripes, July 27, 2015
House passes bill urging VA to change military sexual assault regulations, The Hill, July 27, 2015
Getting Disability Compensation for Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Nolo