VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports that VA continues to mishandle its processing of military sexual trauma claims. To establish service connection for PTSD resulting from a sexual assault, a veteran must have a current diagnosis of PTSD, credible evidence that the sexual assault or harassment (the stressor) occurred during military service, and a medical opinion linking the PTSD to the in-service stressor. Because two out of three sexual assaults go unreported, finding evidence of the assault present what VA calls a “special challenge.” In response, VA established special procedures to help veterans produce evidence to help substantiate their claim. This evidence often comes in the form of the veteran’s own statement and what VA calls “markers.” “Markers” pieces of evidence which corroborate the veteran’s story. One example is a receipt for a pregnancy test the day after the assault. Another example is a poor evaluation which shows a reduction in work performance soon after the assault. You can read more about how to be successful in an MST claim here.
VA is, according to the OIG, still not consistently following these procedures. From October to December 2019, more than half of the denied MST claims were not processed correctly. The Inspector General found VA had not fully implemented six recommendations made in 2018 to improve VA’s handling of these claims. VA’s OIG recommended VA assign these claims to a special group of rating officials, implement additional layers of review, and provide additional training to the claims processors.
If you’ve been denied a claim related to a military sexual assault, we can help. Please contact us here so we can get a copy of your claim file and perform a free evaluation of your claim.
*DOD photo by Staff Sgt. Kelly Simon, U.S. Army. The teal ribbon is a national symbol of support for victims of sexual assault, and is used by the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program, and its Air Force counterpart, the Sexual Assault and Prevention Response (SAPR) Program