Congresswoman Chellie Pingree wrote to the Department of Veterans Affairs this week to urge them to treat women veterans suffering from service-related Female Sexual Arousal Disorder (FSAD) the same as men suffering from Erectile Dysfunction (ED).
Victims of sexual assault often suffer from FSAD and ED, based on the physical and psychological effects of sexual trauma or as a side effect of medication used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression. In the case of male veterans, if the condition is related to their military service, they can qualify for disability benefits. However, the VA doesn't provide similar benefits for female veterans.
"I've heard from female veterans who have had their disabilityclaims denied because the VA doesn't even have a diagnostic code for this condition. They are clearly suffering because of their sexual assault, but the VA just isn't set up to treat themfairly and equitably," Pingree said. "Men can get benefits and treatment with Viagra or other drugs but female veterans are left to deal with this condition on their own."
Pingree wrote to General Allison Hickey, a VA Under Secretary who Pingree has worked closely with on other issues surrounding Military Sexual Trauma, asking her to make the necessary changes to treat female veterans equally.
"I think you would agree with me that the disability claims system should equally support men and women veterans, and if men are commonly service-connected for a condition, then their female veteran counterparts who suffer similar service-related injuries should receive thesame benefit," Pingree wrote in the letter to Hickey.
"For both women and men who are trauma survivors, these are serious conditions that have a big impact on the quality of their lives," Pingree said. "If they came about because of something that happened while they were serving, they should be treated and compensated equally."
December 11, 2012
The Honorable Allison A. Hickey
Under Secretary for Benefits
Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington DC, 20525
Dear General Hickey,
Thank you for your continued efforts to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a 21st Century organization. I write to you today concerning an inequity in the disability claims system that negatively affects women veterans who experienced military sexual trauma (MST) or suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and or Depression that was caused by other traumatic events in service.
As you know, the VA commonly service-connects male veterans for erectile dysfunction (ED). Many of these veterans are primarily service-connected for ED based on physical and psychological effects of military sexual trauma. Male veterans can also be service-connected for ED on a secondary basis because it is a common side effect of medication these veterans are prescribed for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression. I was troubled to learn that VA currently has no diagnostic code for female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD), a very common disorder in women veterans who have also experienced in-service rape or sexual harassment or take medications for service-connected PTSD and Depression.
Women survivors of military sexual trauma may also suffer from sexual dysfunction due to psychological or physical injuries that are service-related. I have been contacted by female veterans, and have been made aware of countless more, who have had their disability claims denied because the VA has no diagnostic code for this condition for female veterans. I think you would agree with me that the disability claims system should equally support men and women veterans, and if men are commonly service-connected for a condition, then their female veteran counterparts who suffer similar service-related injuries should receive thesame benefit.
I respectfully request that you review this and take the necessary action to ensure female veterans receive every benefit that they are entitled to. During your November 2012 visit to the Togus, Maine Regional Office, you indicated that veterans would be notified soon that VBA will begin to review MST-related claims that were previously denied to ensure that veterans were not denied erroneously. It is my hope that the issue of FSAD when connected to MST claims can be part of this review.
Thank you for your attention to the important matter. I look forward to hearing from you.
Member of Congress