Should I File Another Claim to Service-Connected PTSD or Related Psychiatric Disability Based Upon Military Sexual Trauma After the First Claim Has Been Denied
Published June 19, 2019
It does not matter whether a sexually assaulted claimant has tried once or several times to service-connect their PTSD or related psychiatric disability claim. In either case, military sexual trauma (MST) claims are difficult to prove. Rarely will the victim have reported the incident at or near the time of the in-service assault, and rarely will there be any other documentation in the claims file verifying its occurrence.
The absence of such evidence is a significant obstacle to an MST claim because, as you may recall, PTSD claims require independent corroboration of the alleged in-service stressor: A significant obstacle, but not an insurmountable one.
The VA recognizes that, for many reasons, sexual assault victims are reluctant to report these traumas. Consequently, the VA has relaxed the independent corroboration requirement and allowed MST claimants to prove the occurrence of their alleged assaults through indirect, circumstantial evidence. This type of circumstantial evidence can take the form of documentation of the veteran’s marked decline in behavior or job performance soon after the alleged assault. This type of circumstantial evidence can often be found in the claimant’s military personnel file. (A claimant or their representative will need to request the VA to obtain this file. The personnel file is usually not contained in the claims file). Look carefully for negative job performance evaluations or any negative disciplinary comments or disciplinary punishments soon after the occurrence of the alleged sexual assault. If there is a noticeable decline in behavior or performance soon after the assault, this evidence should be enough to satisfy the independent corroboration requirement.