According to the 2018 Report of the Department of Veterans Office of Inspector General, military sexual trauma (“MST”) is on the rise, increasing 10% from the previous year. The Inspector General also found that the Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) improperly processed 49% of MST claims in the six-month time period reviewed. During this same time period, veterans’ benefits appeals took an average of seven years to complete, with one in four-teen veterans dying while the appeal was pending. These grim statistics, combined with an adjudication process described as an administrative “hamster wheel,” are untenable in a benefits system statutorily designed to be non-adversarial and veteran friendly. The advocate’s job is to help the veteran receive the full extent of allow-able compensation and to do so as expeditiously as possible. This article is intended to guide the veteran’s advocate through the administrative claims process, highlighting the major components of the process and the core legal concepts applicable to cases involving MST. The article will also identify the myriad of disabilities that can arise from MST, which are not limited to only mental health issues, so that veterans are properly rated for each and every symptom related to the trauma. Our hope is that this article provides a workable roadmap for the advocate, leading to better quality VA decision-making earlier in the VA adjudication process and better representation for veterans suffering from lasting effects of MST.
Angela K. Drake and Charlotte R. Burgess-Mundwiller,
Military Sexual Trauma: A Current Analysis of Disability Claims Adjudication Under Veterans Benefits Law,
84 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol84/iss3/6