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Senator Gillibrand demands VA reform when handling cases of military sexual trauma

STAFF REPORTS



Washington, D.C. -- Following a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (OIG) revealing that approximately 1,300 claims of military sexual trauma were mishandled by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, and U.S. Senator Doug Jones called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to immediately take corrective action and implement reforms to ensure that these cases, and future cases of military sexual trauma, are properly handled and reviewed. Gillibrand and Jones called for the VA to implement the recommendations outlined by the Inspector General to properly review claims of military sexual trauma.

“We were deeply concerned to learn that the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General has identified approximately 1,300 claims of military sexual trauma (MST) that were improperly processed,” the Senators wrote to Secretary Robert Wilkie. “This is no way to treat the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. These systemic failures outlined by the OIG must be addressed immediately before their harms are compounded exponentially.”

The VA’s Inspector General found that approximately 1,300 claims of military sexual trauma were improperly processed. This included failures to order required medical examinations and failures to obtain the records necessary to properly review these claims. Claims were also denied despite contradictory evidence. Gillibrand and Jones called on Secretary Wilkie to review all denied military sexual trauma-related claims since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017, and take corrective actions as outlined in the OIG report that would help ensure proper review and oversight for the VA in handling such claims. The Senators also requested quarterly progress reports to members of Congress to ensure the implementation of the recommendations.

Military sexual assault causes a wide range of mental and health consequences, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depressive disorders, substance abuse disorders, sleep disturbances, chronic headaches, fatigue, and suicidal behavior. Failing to address military sexual assault claims can further exacerbate these issues and can reduce the likelihood that a survivor would search for help in the future. 

A copy of the Senators’ letter may be found HERE.