Veteran advocate groups have petitioned the federal VA to change its claims process. The proposed rule change would impact veterans with PTSD who were sexually assaulted while in the military.
Students with Yale Law School's Veterans Legal Clinic are representing Vietnam Veterans of America and Servicewomen's Action Network. Law student intern Abigail Graber says sexual assault is a stronger predictor of PTSD than other traumas.
Yet she says survivors of military sexual trauma or MST face a greater evidentiary burden than other veterans who submit PTSD claims. "If you're claiming PTSD based on combat experience, all you have to show is evidence that you are a combat veteran and then only your lay testimony is sufficient to prove a claim. But if you're claiming PTSD based on sexual assault then you have to provide some other secondary evidence to substantiate your claim."
Graber says between 2008 and 2010, only one-third of PTSD claims based on military sexual trauma were approved by the VA. The VA has acknowledged the problem of sexual assaults impacting the health of veterans, and in the past, has recommended to its benefits staff to be less stringent with documents.
But claims continue to be denied. That's why the veterans groups want to see a formal rule change on the books. Graber says the VA has yet to respond to the request.