"[Secretary Shulkin], Tear Down This Wall!" Tearing Down the Wall Between Veterans Suffering From PTSD Due to Military Sexual Trauma and Compensation Benefits
Section I of this Note discusses the prevalence of sexual assault in the military and why so many victims do not report their assault. It draws on the link between underreporting and a lack of corroborative evidence. However, for those assaults that are reported, Section I briefly describes the two types of reports and the advantages and disadvantages of each. It draws on statistics, studies, and personal narratives to determine the most common causes for a victim’s decision not to report his or her assault. This part briefly touches on how this problem is gender-neutral and not exclusive to females.
Section II of this Note discusses post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a chronic mental health condition suffered by many service-members due to their military service. Section II describes the symptoms of PTSD and how PTSD has a tendency to develop in those who suffer from MST. Section III provides an overview of the Veterans Benefit Administration, and more specifically, how the VBA assists veterans suffering from PTSD. This section analyzes 38 C.F.R. §3.304, the law governing VA compensation for PTSD, and explains that the law is flawed because of the uneven distribution of benefits. This section will also explain the appeals process for veterans whose claims are denied.
Section IV of this Note looks at past attempts to resolve the uneven distribution of PTSD disability benefits. Specifically, this Note examines Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s Ruth Moore Act of 2015 and the Service Women Action Network’s proposed amendment to 38 C.F.R. §3.304, §3.304(g).10 This Note proposes similar legislation that would remove the additional corroborative evidentiary requirement imposed on veterans seeking MST-related PTSD benefits, allowing a veteran’s lay testimony alone to establish the occurrence of MST. In addition, this Note proposes that immediately upon filing a claim, veterans should be provided with all necessary information required to monitor a claim and address any grievances or concerns that may arise throughout the whole process, including instructions on how and when to appeal a denied claim. By having this information immediately available, any veteran who has been adversely affected by inconsistent application of this regulation can have a second chance at filing for MST-related PTSD compensation. Finally, Section IV will address the VA Secretary’s concerns regarding the removal of the corroborative evidentiary requirement and dispute the Secretary’s explanations as to why the corroborative evidentiary requirement is not overly burdensome.
Winner: 2017 JCRED Best Notes Award