U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill this week cosponsored legislation improving the Department of Veterans Affairs' process for evaluating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disability claims by military veterans. The legislation would allow PTSD linked to trauma caused by a sexual assault to be sufficient proof for disability compensation-bringing the protocol in line with guidelines for servicemembers who have experienced a traumatic combat event.
"Veterans who survived a sexual assault during their service deserve a disability system that treats them fairly, equitably and honorably," said McCaskill, a former Jackson Country Prosecutor and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "Many survivors of sexual assault experience PTSD following an attack-VA guidelines should reflect that reality and provide the support these veterans have earned."
Currently, the VA has in place a higher standard of proof for survivors of military sexual trauma to be diagnosed with service-connected PTSD, thus making it more difficult for them to qualify for disability benefits.
McCaskill has been a leader on sexual assault prevention in the military-previously taking action to respond to reports of sexual assault occurring at Fort Leonard Wood that were detailed in a St. Louis Post Dispatch investigation. At a 2011 Armed Services hearing, McCaskill grilled then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the military's response to instances of sexual assault.
McCaskill also included provisions in the 2012 and 2013 National Defense Authorization Acts designed to improve the military's response to sexual assault and encourage the services to adopt training for sexual assault investigators developed at the Army's Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood.