The VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that investigated denied disability claims for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to military sexual trauma (MST). The findings concluded that the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) processed approximately 12,000 claims annually over the past three years for PTSD related to MST.

In FY2017, VBA denied about 5,500 of those claims. The OIG review team sampled 169 denied claims and discovered 82 were incorrectly processed, which indicates an overall adjudication error rate of 49 percent. The incorrectly processed denial error projections were mostly found to be due to evidence submitted, VA not requesting adequate evidence, veterans submitting claims not being contacted by VA’s MST coordinators, and insufficient medical opinions.

“The Inspector General’s report is very troubling,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence in a press statement. “The VA’s own statistics show that suicide rates among military sexual assault victims are a growing problem, yet here we have VBA — which is the key to all things VA — incorrectly processing almost a quarter of all claims. That’s failing our veterans.” Veterans who submitted claims for PTSD related to MST and feel their claims were improperly denied may contact the VFW for claims assistance.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 5,200 service members reported a sexual assault in FY 2017 for an incident that occurred during their military service, an increase of about 10 percent from the previous year.1 However, 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. 2 Reasons for not reporting that are unique to the military include 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, and the perception of an unresponsive military chain of command.

As a result, if the MST leads to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is often difficult for victims of MST to produce the required evidence to support the occurrence of the reported assault.

For further details on the entire VA report at VAOIG.

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