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The VA Finds That It Wrongly Denied Hundreds of Sexual Trauma Claims

Hundreds of veterans seeking treatment for sexual trauma they experienced while in the military had their claims wrongly denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a VA Office of Inspector General investigation has found.

The VA processes claims for injury and trauma sustained while in the military, from head injuries to experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Each year, around 12,000 veterans file for sexual trauma-related PTSD benefits. However, the investigation found that as many as 1,300 claims were mishandled in the last year alone, as first reported by USA Today.

In 2011, the VA put new rules in place for vetting claims of sexual assault endured during military service. These rules eased the standard of evidence and required processors to take a variety of extra steps, including looking through a veteran's personal file and searching for evidence of behavioral changes that could be related to trauma. The investigation found that these extra steps were not taken in hundreds of cases, however, and many claims were prematurely and inappropriately denied, leaving survivors of military sexual trauma to cope without support from the VA.

According to the Pentagon, reports of sexual assault in military ranks rose by 10 percent in 2017.