by: Stephanie Coueignoux Updated:
FAYETTEVILLE - The number of women in the military is at an all-time high. But some female veterans are speaking out about what they call the darker side of service sexual assault.
Some of those women have PTSD, and are fighting the VA to recognize their condition.
Vivian Wallace was serving the Army when she was raped by another soldier at a base in Kansas.
“He took a lot from me. He took my life,” Wallace said through tears. “It still gives you nightmares. It still makes you scared.”
That was 32 years ago. Wallace was eventually diagnosed with PTSD and applied for veterans disability benefits. She said it took the Department of Veterans Affairs 10 years to even acknowledge her sexual assault- even though her attacker pleaded guilty and went to jail.
Wallace told Channel 9, “They said they couldn't find any records of that happening to me. One-hundred percent denied. No benefits."
Paul Goodson represents Wallace and dozens of other local female veterans fighting to get benefits for Military Sexual Trauma -- a form of PSTD.
Goodson told us he has come up against resistance from the VA time and time again. He said there seems to be a refusal to even acknowledge the issue.
Wallace said, “It really hurts that they put us to the side like that. We served our country.”
From October 2012 to September 2013, the Department of Defense received 5,061 reports of alleged sexual assault.
In 54 percent of those cases, both the suspects and the alleged victims were service members.
We contacted the VA. No one would talk with us on camera, but it gave us a statement saying it "has initiated additional training efforts and specialized handling procedures to ensure thorough, accurate, and timely processing of these claims."
In 2008, the VA awarded disability benefits to 26 percent of veterans who submitted a claim involving Military Sexual Trauma. In 2013, that increased to 50 percent.
Eventually, the VA found Wallace’s records and gave her 70 percent of the maximum amount of disability benefits she could receive. She is now fighting to get 100 percent of those benefits.
Under the VA rating system, a veteran qualifies for 100 percent when they exhibit symptoms including "intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living" and "persistent delusions or hallucinations".
Goodson told Channel 9, “As I have pointed to the VA more than once, their own records, within their own files right now, indicates Vivian is entitled to 100 percent.
Wallace said she refuses to be a victim. She's speaking out to help other veterans, “I hope these women don't give up. They have to keep fighting for this. This is the only way we're going to let the military know this is happening to us! Do something about it!”
In a statement, the VA told Channel 9 all military sexual assault related claims are now processed separately from other claims.
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