September 29, 2014 — Several senators in a letter to President Obama called for the Department of Veterans Affairs to issue a rule enabling more survivors of military sexual violence to receive disability compensation for mental health issues related to the assaults, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports.
The letter was sent in response to VA's recent decision to deny a petition requesting that it create such a rule. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) were the lead signatories, with Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) also signing the letter.
The lawmakers wrote, "The psychological effects of sexual violence persist long after a service member has left active duty, and many cases of sexual assault do not produce the same evidence or documentation as other traumatic events experienced by military personnel," adding that VA's current evidentiary standards requiring proof of military sexual trauma "fail to sufficiently take these basic facts into account when determining eligibility for benefits and services for survivors of military sexual trauma."
The senators added, "VA adjudicators are not accurately and consistently applying VA regulations regarding the evidence required for a finding of military sexual trauma. As a result, adjudicators are disproportionately denying [post-traumatic stress disorder] claims related to military sexual trauma" (Cox, "Floor Action," The Hill, 9/26).