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

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Rape, Then Red Tape

Military sexual assault victims struggle for recognition.

BY Ian Lopez

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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