I recently had the unique opportunity of dining with a group of women from the U.S. Armed Services who proudly served our country. As with female and male veterans whom I have assisted with social security disability claims over the years, I heard firsthand accounts of military sexual trauma (MST). Some of my clients have related suffering in silence or being revictimized by unaddressed complaints. I have been disheartened to hear how reporting a case of sexual assault can impact one’s military career. Those who reported incidents of sexual assault have been demoted, placed in dead end positions without career advancement, been discharged, or have felt compelled to leave the military and never reenlist, as S.E. Smith noted in her blog at rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/01/26/often-military-sexual-assault-survivors-must-fight-disability-benefits/
Based on the Department of Defense’s Statutory Enforcement Report conducted by the US Commission on Civil Rights in 2013, there were 3,374 processed cases of military sexual assaults in 2012. According to The Invisible War, a documentary, the Department of Defense estimates that more than 19,000 military sexual assaults occurred in 2010, yet only 3,192 were reported. There were approximately 191 convictions at courts-martial. Wikipedia reports that there were 244 convictions in 2010.
The US Commission on Civil Rights notes that females, who only comprise approximately 14 percent of the military population, are 5xs more likely to be victims than males. The Department of Defense defines Sexual Assault as:
Intentional Sexual Contact characterized by the use of force, threats, intimidation, or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent. The term includes a broad category of sexual offenses including rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, forced anal or oral sex or attempts to commit these acts, as noted in The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Sexual Contact in Article 120 of the UCMJ is defined as touching, or causing another person to touch either directly or through the clothing, the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh or buttocks of any person with intent to abuse, humiliate or degrade any person OR any touching, or causing another person to touch, either directly or through the clothing, any body part of any person, if done with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
For those on Active Duty or National Guard Service who wish to report MST, a Sexual Assault Response Counselor (SARC) is available 24/7. Call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 to get the direct contact number for the SARC. A veteran in distress can call the crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.
Years later, these same veterans may be applying for social security disability benefits, as well as veteran’s benefits. Among the impairments evaluated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression, in addition to physical manifestations of MST such as obesity, chronic pain or ulcers. Unfortunately, MST survivors might also self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. In order to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) with a diagnosis of substance abuse, a treating source must affirm that the underlying mental health diagnosis or physical condition exists separate and apart from alcohol and/or drug abuse.
In 1992, Public Law 102-805 made it possible for female veterans to pursue counseling for MST through the Veteran’s Administration (VA). Later, pursuant to Public Law 103-452, male as well as female veterans were able to pursue counseling for MST without any restrictions on the length of treatment. Medical providers within the VA now provide mandatory screening for military sexual assault to all veterans. For inpatient or residential treatment, the VA has over 20 programs nationwide with specialized MST treatment. Treatment is also available for medical conditions related to MST such as chronic pain, eating disorders, bowel problems etc. VHA DIRECTIVE 2010-033 effective through July 31, 2015.
Call the Law office of Kathleen M Flynn, LLC at 404-479-4431 if you would like assistance with filing an application or appeal for social security disability benefits based upon mental and/or physical conditions sustained from MST. Also, please visit our website at www.kathleenflynnlaw.com to learn more about us.