Army Veteran Awarded Service Connection for PTSD after 1970s Sexual Assault

J.D. hired Friedman Disability in 2011 to represent her in her claim for service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which had been denied by the VA in 2010. J.D. served in the United States Army from 1975 to 1978

and was sexually assaulted by another service member during her military service.

Although J.D. had provided consistent and corroborating testimony from several lay witnesses, all of whom served with her in the Army during the period in which the assault occurred, the VA did not find her account of the incident credible and denied her claim for service connection for PTSD. The VA also ignored the opinion of its own examining psychologist who examined J.D. and found that (1) her PTSD was most likely a result of her claimed military sexual trauma and (2) that her alleged in-service sexual assert occurred.

After obtaining sworn declarations from additional witnesses who served in the Army with J.D. at the time of her assault as well as J.D.’s treating psychiatrist, Friedman Disability filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) on her behalf that led to a favorable rating decision awarding her a 70 percent schedular rating for her service-connected PTSD effective 2009, when she first filed her claim for service connection. This resulted in an award of over $67,000 in past-due benefits. However, the 70 percent schedular disability rating failed to consider the severity of J.D.’s condition and the fact that it had completely prevented her from following any substantially gainful occupation (SGO) since at least 2008.

By assigning J.D. only a 70 percent schedular disability rating, the VA asserted that J.D. was still able to work on a substantially gainful basis but failed to identify any competitive jobs that J.D. could actually perform given the limitations that the VA itself found J.D. had as a result of her service-connected PTSD. As a result, our office appealed this decision’s implicit denial of J.D.’s inferred, informal claim for a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU).

Ultimately, the VA granted J.D. a TDIU rating effective 2009, resulting in an award of more than $137,000 in additional past-due benefits in addition to current disability paid at the 100 percent rate.