VA Re-Examining Military Sexual Trauma Claims


During a live webcast on Oct. 16, VA's new Under Secretary for Benefits, Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D. said that VA will begin reviewing tens of thousands of PTSD claims filed by veterans who suffered Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

VA Inspector General Report Found Problems With MST Claims

In August, VA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report saying that nearly half of denied MST-related claims filed since 2017 were not properly processed by the VA.

The report said that "VA is aware that because of the nature of military sexual trauma (MST) stressors, it is often difficult for a victim to report or document the event when it occurs."

Since MST victims are reluctant to report their assault, the VA has no written service data to back up the victim's PTSD claim, and the claim is often denied.

Back in 2011, the VA realized that many MST victims didn't report assaults due to reasons specific to the military including:

  • reluctance to submit a report when the perpetrator is a superior officer
  • concerns about negative implications for performance reports
  • worries about punishment for collateral misconduct
  • the perception of an unresponsive military chain of command

As a result of these obstacles preventing victims from reporting MST, VA then updated their rules for determining PTSD in MST cases, liberalizing the types of evidence they would accept in MST PTSD claims.

Unfortunately, the new rules weren't followed properly and the OIG found that many denied MST-related claims needed to be reviewed to make sure they followed the changes. The report says that it is possible nearly half of the MST PTSD claims could have been denied incorrectly.

VA To Review MST Related Claims

Based on the recommendations of the OIG report the VA will review all MST claims that were processed since fiscal year 2017, and correct as necessary. VA will also retrain all claims processors on the proper way to process MST claims and add increased auditing and review of all MST claims to ensure they are processed according to the law. 

VA reported that it processed approximately 12,000 claims per year over the last three years for PTSD related to MST. In FY 2017, nearly 5,500 of those claims were denied.

If you have ever been denied a PTSD claim due to MST you should contact the VA to double-check that your claim will be reviewed and reconsidered.

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