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Congress Considers Military Sexual Assault Reform

Shocking Facts of MST Crisis Get Congressional and Media Attention.  

The Military Sexual Assault (MST) crisis is finally getting the national attention it deserves.  Regardless of this increased attention, however, many Veteran survivors of MST-both men and women-still face a a rough and very unfair struggle with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to obtain disability compensation.

Bergmann & Moore follows this issue closely because many of our clients are disabled and unemployable due a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The ACLU and the Service Women’s Action Network, with support from the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Clinic, released a report last week documenting widespread discrimination experienced by many of the thousands of Veterans who file VA claims every year based on disabilities they sustain due to military sexual violence.

Battle for Benefits: VA Discrimination Against Survivors of Military Sexual Violence analyzes new VA data obtained by SWAN, the ACLU, the Women’s Rights Project, and the ACLU of Connecticut as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation filed three years ago.

The report reveals that Veterans whose PTSD is caused by military sexual trauma are much more likely to be denied disability compensation than other Veterans diagnosed with PTSD not related to MST.

Men and MST

In related news, The New York Times reports this week on the lesser known phenomenon of men raped while in the military.  According to the Department of Defense’s Military Sexual Assault Report for 2012, an estimated 26,000 members of the United States military, both men and women, were sexually assaulted in that year.

Michael F. Matthews, a Veteran, MST survivor, and creator of “Justice Denied,” a documentary on male military sexual assault, writes bravely about his experience with MST. He notes that of those sexual assaults, 53 percent (approximately 14,000 in 2012) were attacks on men.

Mathews adds that the vast majority of male perpetrators identify themselves as heterosexual.  “We need to consider whether this tragic epidemic has other causes, nothing to do with combat missions,” he writes.  A study of airmen published earlier this year found that rape victims were six times more likely to think about suicide.

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