The lawsuit alleges that the VA makes military sexual trauma survivors who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) go through more procedural hurdles than other veterans to receive disability benefits. For example, a veteran suffering from PTSD from combat must submit only a statement to receive benefits, while veterans who are MST survivors must submit additional evidence like court documents and prove that their PTSD was caused by their military service. Further, disability claims for MST survivors are approved at a 16 to 30 percent lower rate than other veterans. The lawsuit specifically alleges gender discrimination, against both male and female MST survivors, especially noting that only 37 percent of the disability claims of male MST survivors are granted.
"The VA knows the current process makes veterans who've been harmed by military sexual harassment and assault jump through more hoops than other PTSD claimants to apply for and receive PTSD disability benefits," said Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director of SWAN and former Marine Corps captain. "But they refuse to change their regulations. The result of this discrimination is that survivors of military sexual harassment and assault are denied life-saving benefits and critical income to support themselves and their families."