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The number of women service members and veterans is at an all-time high, with continued growth expected. Yet women service members continue to face serious challenges in service: 1 in 4 experience sexual assault or sexual harassment (known as “military sexual trauma” or “MST”).
Women veterans who experienced MST are more likely to suffer adverse outcomes such as mental health conditions, substance use, discharge from the military, unemployment, and homelessness. Indeed, women veterans make up the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.
VA disability benefits can provide women veterans much-needed stability in the face of these challenges. However, the VA’s adjudication of benefit claims based on MST is complex and prone to error. To help women veterans access these important benefits, attorneys should understand the VA’s MST-specific rules and practice with sensitivity to women veterans’ unique challenges. Please join Olivia B. Cole of Swords to Plowshares as she:
- Provides an overview of military sexual trauma;
- Discusses the cultural and other barriers women veterans face in accessing VA benefits;
- Explains the legal framework surrounding claims for VA benefits and discharge upgrades based on MST;
- Discusses strategies for developing evidence for claims based on MST;
- Provides tips for advocating on behalf of women veterans with pre- or post-service trauma; and
- Discusses VA errors that commonly arise in MST claims.