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Sexually Assaulted Soldiers’ Claims Not Adequately Investigated

By October 8, 2018 VA Disability

One of the greatest successes of the #metoo movement has come in the form of increased awareness of the frequency of sexual assault.  However, there are some groups of people who still have not been heard, and one of these groups is military service members.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General states that last year, the VA mishandled about 1,300 claims for disability benefits for PTSD that stem from a sexual assault experienced during military service.

Noted errors included failing to request medical records or exams, not clarifying contradictory or insufficient medical opinions, and not checking whether a report about the alleged assault had been filed.

In each of the last three years, the VA has processed around 12,000 PTSD disability applications related to sexual trauma, and in 2017, about 5,500 of those claims were denied.  Many servicemen and servicewomen are afraid to report an assault if the perpetrator was his or her superior officer because they fear retaliation in the form of demotion or poor performance reviews.  They may also fear the behavior will continue.

As a result of the report, the VA has agreed to review all military sexual assault benefits claims that were denied between October 2016 and June 2018 because during that period of time, specialists stopped handling sensitive cases like those alleging sexual assault, and inexperienced officials were handling them.