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Female Veterans Battling Sex Assault-Triggered PTSD Fight for Benefits

One in four women say they've experienced sexual harassment or assault while serving in America's military, but benefits often are denied.

One in four women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment or assault while serving in America’s military, but benefits often are denied. A recent survey by the US Department of Veterans Affairs shows that one in four women said they experienced sexual harassment or assault while serving in our nation’s military. It’s an infuriating issue made all the more serious by the fact that female veterans today represent the military’s fastest-growing population. Women vets number upward of 2.2 million – a full 10 percent of America’s veterans.

Despite these numbers, VA clinics, hospitals and benefits staff have been inexcusably slow not only in granting disability benefits due female veterans suffering from sex assault-related issues including PTSD, but in fully adjusting to the rising number of military women. For instance, advocacy groups report that some VA health centers only recently opened women’s restrooms and that women seeking treatment at these centers routinely are asked if they’re waiting for their husbands or simply lost. A full third of VA medical centers lack an on-staff gynecologist and 31 percent lack staff needed to provide adequate treatment for sexual assault, according to reports by Disabled American Veterans and the Institute of Medicine.

Increased activism by and on behalf of the nations’ female military veterans over the past few years has affected some change. The Pentagon launched a high-profile campaign to prevent sexual attacks on servicewomen and to punish offenders. Earlier this month, the VA announced it would expand mental health services to reservists and National Guard members who were sexually assaulted while on inactive duty. And earlier this year, the government nixed a requirement that military members produce proof that they were assaulted or harassed before receiving health care. VA Secretary Robert McDonald says the department is additional steps to address the issue. These include asking each veteran during intake whether they suffered a sex assault or trauma; hiring more doctors, therapist and social workers who have experience in military sex assault issues; and increasing staff responsible for helping female veterans to better navigate the disability claims process.

“VA simply must be an organization that provides comprehensive care for all veterans dealing with the effects of military sexual trauma,” McDonald told reporters recently. “Our range of services for [military sexual trauma]-related experiences are constantly being reexamined to best meet the needs of our veterans.” VA officials say they’re re-reviewing scores of cases of alleged military sex assault and are encouraging female veterans who previously had been denied benefits for treatment of related PTSD to reapply. Despite the progress and improvement, the claim filing process for treatment of military sex assault-related PTSD and other lasting injuries remains a difficult, often confusing and potentially long one.

To help assure that you get fair and timely compensation, call 800-251-1111 and speak with an experienced VA disability benefits attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell today.