Lawyer Eric Gang on How to Prove Past Sexual Trauma or Assault in Military for V.A. Disability Claims or Appeals when the V.A. Denies a Disability Claim
Hello. I’m Eric Gang. I want to talk to you a little bit today about a sensitive topic. That is military sexual trauma.
If you’ve been through that experience, you know how devastating it can be. And, you know also how devastating it can be when V.A. denies this claim. You probably feel like they’re just unwilling to believe you. And, frankly, V.A. is not willing to believe you unless they have hard proof that this incident took place.
But, the problem is, most victims of military sexual trauma, as you know, do not report that this took place. There’s a lot of shame, and guilt, whatever it is, you tend not to talk about it. Especially male victims of sexual trauma, it’s known in scientific evidence, tend not to report these things.
Overcoming V.A.’s Disbelief – There ARE Ways to Prove Decades Past Sexual Trauma
So, now, how are you going to prove your claim? The V.A. will not believe you because you don’t have proof but yet you never told anybody. You kept it a secret. I’ve seen cases where guys keep it secret for 20, 30, 40 years. Don’t even tell their wives. So, I know how difficult these situations can be.
But, there are ways to prove these claims. I can tell you from experience, I’ve been down this road with countless veterans who have come out successful on the other side, so I know there are ways to prove these claims.
Circumstantial Evidence Can Provide Proof of 20, 30, 40 Year Past Sexual Assault
So, here’s the important thing you need to understand. You’re generally not going to have documentation that a rape took place, for example. But, there may be circumstantial evidence that will tend to establish that this took place. The V.A. Regulations and Adjudications Manual provides examples of these types of proofs.
For example, there may be a change in behavior that occurred after this. There may be a decline in work performance. Maybe, all of a sudden, you take up excessive drinking and use of illicit drugs. All these things would tend to establish that there was a change and that something happened. Maybe you broke up with your girlfriend after this or got divorced from your wife. Maybe everybody around you says that there’s something different about you.
Raped in the Service – Examples of Circumstantial Proof that Rape Occurred
I had a case, one time, with a young man who was raped in the Service. When he got home to the states, everybody that knew him before, and when he got back, testified that he was a different person, that something had changed about him. We were able to use that evidence, in combination with a report from a mental health professional, to win his claim.
So, evidence that something took place that changed, could be a change in work performance, a request for transfer. I’ve had cases where men are raped in the Service by somebody in their unit, and so they keep making requests for transfer to get away from the perpetrators. So, these requests for transfer can be used as evidence to prove that something took place.
Medical evidence can be buried in the file, as well, to prove the claim. Let me give you an example of a case we just won. A young man who was raped in the Service. He never told anybody, but he was clearly traumatized because he tried to get out of the Service by feigning homosexuality which, at the time, was not something permitted in the Service. And, they denied the claim for almost 10 years.
Proving His Claim of Rape in the Service – Successful Disability Appeal with Expert Help
He finally retained our (law firm) services. We litigated the case successfully at the U.S. Court of Appeals and remanded the Board. We retained two psychologists and a medical doctor because we found buried in his medical records a handwritten note that was hardly legible, but it was there, a notation of rectal venereal warts.
The medical doctor gave expert testimony this type of situation is consistent with sexual trauma. That, combined with the testimony of the two psychologists who said, “This young man” – by this time he’s in his 60s – “had all the symptoms of somebody who was a victim of military sexual trauma.” The Board granted that claim.
It was one of the shortest decisions I’ve ever seen because they, literally, had no choice but to grant that claim.
So, when you have a situation like this, you must look very carefully at the circumstantial evidence surrounding your life at the time. Did your work performance decline? Did you start using drugs and alcohol? Did you make requests for transfer? Did people around you notice that something changed? These are very important factors.
I want to encourage you, if you’ve been in this situation before, if you are facing a denial for a military sexual trauma, and it usually involves PTSD as a result of this, but you’re struggling with the appeal, I want you to take advantage of the resources available on this site. If you’d like to explore how we may be able to help you, I invite you to contact us.