Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) December 13, 2013 — Veterans face difficulty getting post-traumatic stress disorder cases linked to sexual trauma approved.
A study conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and the American Civil Liberties Union was made public November 5. The study has found that members of the U.S. armed services who sought benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder due to sexual trauma have a tougher time getting their claims approved than those troops filing PTSD claims for other reasons.
The approval rate for PTSD claims linked to sexual trauma during the fiscal year 2012 stood at 56.8 percent, whether that trauma was the result of a rape, assault or harassment. By comparison, 73.3 percent of PTSD claims not linked to sexual trauma were approved the same year.
While the numbers for sexual trauma-related PTSD claims that were approved are 30 percent better than the figures from 2008, the number of non-sexual trauma PTSD claims that were green-lit also improved during the same time frame, going up 20 percent.
The report blamed a dysfunctional bureaucracy, responsible for extended delays and erroneous judgments, for the relatively poor success rate of sexual trauma-connected PTSD claims. But the study also pointed out that veterans who endured sexual trauma while they were on active duty later face discrimination when they file their claims.
While the number of sexual trauma-tied PTSD claims represents a small fraction of all PTSD cases during the period from 2008 to 2012 — 15,862 such claims out of 591,456 in total — previous findings suggest that differences in the manner in which male and female veterans handle sexual trauma may have played a role in suppressing the number of reported claims.
Indeed, while the SWAN/ACLU report tracked how both male and female troops fared when they filed sexual trauma-related PTSD claims, one fact stands out: 53 percent of all sexual assaults from 2010 to 2012 involved attacks upon men. And with men more likely than women to experience a greater sense of shame, embarrassment and fear of a negative reaction from others, it is not surprising that they would be more reluctant to report sexual abuse, much less file a related PTSD claim.
In response to the most recent findings, the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a statement saying that it is “committed to ensuring that veterans have access to military sexual trauma-related health care and disability benefits.”
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