VVA Rejects Proposal to End Discrimination Against Military Sexual Assault Survivors - VVA and SWAN File Suit
(WASHINGTON, DC)—Today, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) sued the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for denying their petition for rulemaking to change regulations that discriminate against thousands of veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by rape, sexual assault, or harassment during military service. The lawsuit aims to end gender disparities and discriminatory policies at the VA, which the organizations argue are a violation of equal protection under the law.
Veterans who experience physical, mental, or emotional struggles related to their service are entitled to seek disability compensation from the VA. The most common mental-health condition that Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivors experience is PTSD. The majority of MST-related PTSD claims are submitted by women. Currently, the VA refuses to accept MST survivors’ lay testimony alone to establish eligibility for compensation. As a result, the VA continues to deny MST-related disability compensation claims at a significantly higher rate than other non-MST-related claims.
“VA is doing everything it can to deny compensation to veterans impacted by sexual assault and sexual harassment,” said Anu Bhagwati, Service Women’s Action Network executive director and former Marine Corps Captain. “Over several years, we’ve gathered startling evidence that VA has been systematically discriminating against veterans applying for benefits based on Military Sexual Trauma.”
SWAN, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, has collected data through Freedom of Information Act litigation that reveals many discrepancies in approval rates between MST and other PTSD-related claims. From 2009 to 2012, MST-related PTSD claims were approved 16 to 30 percent less frequently than other PTSD claims. The VA had refused to share these data prior to actions taken by SWAN, ACLU, and Yale.
From a July 22 Student Veterans of America (SVA) press release: Even after Corinthian Colleges announced its closure, several of their affiliate institutions continued to actively recruit students and traveled to military installations to speak with active-duty service members. Because of this, SVA is announcing the creation of a "Not Recommended" schools list and will caution student veterans to avoid these institutions. "We applaud the role that various government agencies have played in the exposure of abusive practices, including the active leadership shown by several key Members of Congress," said Wayne Robinson, SVA President and CEO. "We also recognize that SVA is nimble, and as an organization of over 1,000 chapters, we have the responsibility to put pressure on institutions who continue to demonstrate they do not create a campus environment conducive to veteran success. SVA's 'Not Recommended' list will call attention to these campuses so that student veterans can make informed decisions on how to best use their benefits." SVA is also working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop resources and information regarding how veterans will be affected by the closure of the Corinthian Colleges system.
More Veteran News
Jamie Dupree, in a July 14 article for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, reported on the Monday House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on benefits: “It was a familiar story line before the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Monday night—but from a different part of the VA—as another panel of whistleblowers detailed how they raised questions about troubles inside the agency, only to face retaliation for sending their concerns to their superiors.
" 'They were instructing us to change the dates on claims, on any claims,' said Kristin Ruell, a VA employee in the Philadelphia benefits office, a charge that seemed much like the data manipulation dealing with delays in medical appointments for veterans, which in this case would make it look like the VA was dealing with veterans claims more swiftly than what was really happening.
"Ruell said it was very obvious that VA bosses did not appreciate any whistleblowing reports on veterans benefits claims. 'After my last whistleblowing attempt, my name was forwarded to the people I reported,' Ruell said, adding that the next morning, 'my car was dented.' "
Jamie Reno prefaces his July 16 article for The Reno Dispatch with the following: “Some of my most trusted sources insist that the wait times and many of the embattled agency's other ills are indeed the result of the lack of resources needed to hire enough doctors and other quality healthcare staff. It isn't a popular sentiment these days. But there may be something to it....”
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Basketball Hall of Famer Pat Williams To Deliver Keynote Speech at Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Leadership & Education Conference (July 15, 2014)
(Washington, D.C.)—Pat Williams, the co-founder and senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, will give the Keynote Speech at the Opening Ceremonies of Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Leadership & Education Conference on Wednesday morning, August 6, at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita, Kansas.
“Pat Williams has been a general manager with three NBA teams, and he led the Philadelphia 76ers to NBA Championship,” VVA National President John Rowan said. “Not only that, but Pat’s one of the world’s best motivational speakers, and I, for one, am really looking forward to what he has to say to our organization’s leading advocates as we kick of the conference in Wichita.”
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Personality Disorder Discharges
The Department of Defense (DoD) has violated the law by failing to release records showing that it has wrongfully discharged nearly 26,000 service members on the basis of so-called "Personality Disorder."