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VA faces lawsuit alleging benefits discrimination

For veterans struggling with a service-related condition or impairment, it isn’t always easy to obtain disability benefits. One type of claim that can be particularly challenging to have approved is a disability claim for PTSD based on military sexual trauma. In recent years, it has become more and more clear how big of an issue sexual assault is in the military. Those who suffer from the fallout of a terrible experience deserve to be supported.

Unfortunately, say two veteran advocacy groups, the VA may not approach claims based on military sexual trauma in a fair way. The groups, Service Women’s Action Network and Vietnam Veterans of America, claim that between 2009 and 2012, claims for PTSD based on military sexual trauma were approved 30 percent less than other claims based on PTSD. The latter would primarily involve combat related trauma. 

The VA has reportedly disputed the numbers listed in a complaint filed by the groups, although it is possible that the VA doesn’t have an accurate picture of how often military sexual trauma claims are approved or denied.

Veterans who suffer from PTSD, regardless of the underlying cause, may be able to obtain Social Security disability benefits in addition to veterans benefits. One way such claims can be approved is by presenting evidence that satisfies the requirements listed in an entry of the official listing of impairments. In the case of PTSD, the appropriate entry would be mental impairments, and more specifically, anxiety disorders.

Another possibility for approval is for the applicant to qualify under a medical vocational allowance, which means that the Social Security Administration deems the individual to be disabled even though they do not meet the requirements of an official listing. This determination may be made on a combination of factors, including previous work experience, age, education and inability to work.

As with any SSDI application, it can be really helpful to work with an experienced attorney who understands how to present the best possible application the first time around, as well as how to handle appeals if necessary. 

Source: NBC News, “Vet Groups Claim VA Discriminates Against Rape Survivors,” Bill Briggs, April 30, 2014. 

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