Female soldiers face a myriad of difficulties when pursuing justice for sexual assault and its consequences. (Expert Infantry / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Rape, Then Red Tape

Military sexual assault victims struggle for recognition.

BY Ian Lopez

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Ruth Moore joined the navy to fight for her country. While serving, she was raped twice by her supervisor, and she continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Moore says her PTSD has resulted in “anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, a sexually transmitted disease, miscarriages, suicide attempts, homelessness, [and] an end [to her] marriage.” Nevertheless, it took a 23-year fight with the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) for Moore to receive any disability benefits. Currently, she has a 70-percent disability rating, which provides her with a bare-bones annual income of less than $18,000.

The VA faces a backlog of nearly 900,000 disability claims, but the struggle to obtain benefits is even more difficult for veterans like Moore who’ve experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST). When filing a PTSD claim, MST victims are required to submit evidence of the crime. In most cases, this evidence doesn’t exist. In 2011, a joint study by the ACLU and Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), an advocacy group for women veterans, found that the VBA had approved only one third of MST-based PTSD claims over the previous three years.

In July, SWAN submitted testimony at a Senate hearing to review the VA’s handling of MST-based PTSD claims. Now, Moore is keeping the pressure up with a petition to the VA; you can sign at www.change.org/petitions/support-all-vets-applying-for-ptsd-benefits.

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