Military policy discriminates against servicewomen with PTSD

This series will showcase three papers from the Fall 2010 Disability in the Law class at the Seattle University School of Law. The class was taught by David Carlson, associate director of legal advocacy for DisAbility Rights Washington.

The Argument for Liberalizing the Evidentury Burden for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Claims Triggered by Military Sexual Trauma” by Seattle University School of Law graduate Shawn Moomey argues in favor of reducing the requirements for female veterans seeking post traumatic stress disorder claims triggered by military sexual trauma.

Ninety-one percent of combat-related PTSD claims are filed by male veterans, and 66 percent of military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims are filed by women. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reduced the evidentiary standard for proving combat related PTSD but still required extensive documentation for PTSD caused by military sexual trauma.

As a result, the rules, despite appearing to be gender neutral, have a disparate impact that discriminates against female veterans.

Mooney details in the paper a number of key factors contributing to barriers for service members attempting to show military sexual trauma related PTSD including fears of retaliation from military leadership or within their military unit, as well as the military’s highly male-dominated culture. When female veterans do report cases of military sexual trauma, the evidence is often rejected by “VA officials with insufficient training and experience in the matters of sexual assault.”

A 2008 Department of Defense Survey found that 6.8 percent of servicewomen are sexually assaulted, though the report estimates that 70 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.