Sexual Assault and PTSD in the Military

According to an article in the New York Times, a recent Pentagon study noted a fifty percent increase in the number of military sexual assaults reports.  The study indicated that over 5,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2013.  Less than ten percent of those cases went to trial.  There is uncertainty about whether the increased reporting is due to changes made by the military to encourage reporting by sexual assault victims or whether there is actually an increased number of sexual assault cases.

It goes without saying that sexual assault is a horrible crime.  The victims of sexual assault are harmed physically and emotionally.  Many sexual assault victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their traumatic experience.  When PTSD develops after a sexual assault in the military, the service member should receive disability compensation benefits.  However, as reported by NBC News, a recent lawsuit filed by two veterans organizations claims that the Department of Veterans Affairs discriminates against victims of sexual assault in PTSD claims.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit indicate that VA is as much as thirty percent less likely to authorize a claim for sexual assault related PTSD when compared to other PTSD claims.   VA claims that there is only about a six percent difference in the approval rate for the fiscal year 2013.  It is important to realize that this is only a lawsuit that has been filed and no determination has been made about the merits of the claims made in the lawsuit.  Nevertheless, it is concerning that there is data to indicate that service members who are victims of sexual assault may be held to a higher standard than service members who developed PTSD as a result of some other service-connected event.