Military Sexual Trauma (“MST”) is an epidemic. It is the psychological trauma that a servicemember of any gender suffers after enduring verbal or physical sexual assault or battery – a trauma that often manifests as PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or any number of other symptoms.
Yet, it is a trauma that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (“VA”) has consistently overlooked. While veterans have a right to obtain disability benefits for their MST-related disabilities, they are disproportionately denied by their regional offices (“ROs”). In fact, between 2008 and 2012, MST-related PTSD claims were granted up to 29.6% less often than other PTSD claims. This is entirely unacceptable.
A new lawsuit brought in New Haven indicates that the VA may have an especially acute bias against men who apply for MST-related benefits – a prejudice which, if not addressed, has the potential to ruin the lives of the dozens of military men who are sexually assaulted every single day. The following blog details the lawsuit, the evidence it relies on, and the best way for veterans of any gender to win benefits for MST-related disabilities.
New Haven Lawsuit Brought by Protect our Defenders and Connecticut Veteran Legal Center
The lawsuit was filed on March 7th in New Haven, Connecticut. The plaintiffs are two nonprofit organizations which serve male MST survivors: Protect our Defenders and Connecticut Veteran Legal Center. The organizations are demanding that the VA release detailed records regarding how the department handles disability-benefits claims made by male MST survivors.
The Lawsuit Comes on the Heels of Instances of Homophobia in the Military and VA
The fact that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed less than seven years ago indicates that special efforts must be made to identify and expel any remaining specters of homophobia in the military, including the VA.
Therefore, the plaintiffs were rightfully concerned when, according to The Day, members of the VA board “allegedly made homophobic, racist and sexist remarks via their government emails and in an online forum…referring to male VA employees as 'butt buddies' and speculating about whether male coworkers engaged in oral sex with one another."
In light of these comments, the plaintiffs seek to obtain transparent access to the VA records referenced above so that they can discern whether there is a pervasive bias at the VA which is categorically affecting male applicants for MST-related disability benefits.
MST Survivors are Entitled to Disability Benefits
If you are an MST survivor and you are experiencing PTSD, depression, anxiety, or another disability related to MST, you are entitled to disability benefits. While, as indicated above, the process is often unfair, do not let that dissuade you – we are here to help. If your initial application is denied, send us a note or give us a call at (877) 629-1712. With decades of combined experience cutting through VA bias, we are confident we can win you the benefits you deserve.