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Pingree Questions VA Office of Inspector General on Military Sexual Assault Claims

Last August, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a report which found that almost half of military sexual trauma (MST) claims were not processed properly. This raised the strong possibility that MST survivors were wrongly denied benefits which they are legally entitled to. 

It has been a long, slow road to change the culture so that military leaders recognize, treat and prevent sexual assault. The acknowledgment last week by Senator Martha McSally (R-Arizona) that she suffered rape while in the Air Force demonstrates not only the pervasiveness of the problem but also the cultural and personal barriers that servicemembers face coming forward, even years later.

My congressional office has handled hundreds of MST cases, horrible stories of men and women who can’t get benefits because the law won’t help them. We hope to update the law this year. Now, that the VA-OIG has told us that those who do muster the courage to come forward and submit a claim for compensation for their trauma, are essentially cheated by the system. It shows the culture in the VA is as behind the times as the Department of Defense (DOD). 

Today, I asked the VA-OIG if the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) has taken corrective action to ensure MST claims are being properly processed. Our returning servicemembers and their families deserve answers.


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