The Department of Veterans Affairs improperly denied hundreds of military sexual trauma claims in recent years, leaving potentially thousands of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder without benefits, a VA inspector general investigation found.
The investigation found the agency mishandled as many as 1,300 sexual trauma claims. Some 12,000 veterans file for sexual trauma-related PTSD benefits each year.
The inspector general found the VA failed to order required medical exams in more than half the cases, didn’t obtain necessary records to back up the claims in hundreds of cases or denied claims despite contradictory evidence.
The agency neglected to provide adequate training to employees vetting the claims. It stopped conducting quality audits of the sexual trauma claims process in 2015. And the following year, it shunted the claims into a national queue where staff without any specialized knowledge processed them.
The VA has specialized processing for other types of claims, including those related to traumatic brain injuries or from prisoners of war.
The inspector general recommended the agency review denied claims, reintroduce specialized vetting and audits, and provide better training for claims processors.