Air Force Veteran Wins Individual Unemployability for MST-Related PTSD

R.S. hired Friedman Disability in December 2016 after the VA denied her claim for service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by military sexual trauma (MST). The VA wrongly claimed R.S. failed to prove she had been sexually assaulted in the military, but did not provide any valid reasons for doing so.

R.S. enlisted as a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in 1999, and during her first year of service she survived a sexual assault perpetrated by three other cadets. R.S. told her cadet sponsor and chain of command about the assault, leading to an investigation by the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI). During the OSI investigation, R.S. received anonymous threats and harassment, and was pressured by investigators to drop the issue even though they had found her allegations to be credible. Eventually, R.S. was told that she would be medically discharged if she did not resign, so she resigned from the Academy in 2001.

Our firm obtained sworn declarations from the veteran, her husband (who had been dating her at the time of the assault), and the cadet sponsor to whom R.S. had reported the assault, all of which supported R.S.’s account of the event and her behavioral changes demonstrating that she had been sexually assaulted. Significantly, our firm acquired a copy of the OSI investigation file, which confirmed that the investigation had taken place and that it was grossly mishandled and then covered up in response to media scrutiny of the USAFA’s past mishandling of sexual assault cases. Our firm also obtained and submitted to the VA copies of the veteran’s mental health treatment records corroborating her diagnosis of PTSD, caused by her in-service assault, and that her PTSD precluded her ability to obtain and follow a substantially gainful occupation (SGO).

After compiling this evidence, our firm submitted a notice of disagreement (NOD) on the veteran’s behalf, leading to a May 2018 rating decision that granted her service connection for PTSD rated as 70 percent disabling with a 2015 effective date, resulting in an award of more than $57,000 in past-due benefits.

After our firm established service connection for R.S.’s PTSD, our firm filed VA Form 21-8940 seeking individual unemployability benefits. The VA then granted R.S. individual unemployability benefits in another rating decision in December 2018, also with a 2015 effective date, resulting in another award of more than $56,000 in past-due benefits and continuing current disability paid at the 100 percent rate.