05.20.134:45 PM ET

Military Sex Assault Victims Battle for Benefits

A disproportionate 40 percent of sexual assault victims treated by the VA are male.

The human toll taken by the epidemic of sexual assault in the American military continues to be staggering. Last year, more than 85,000 veterans were treated for illnesses or injury stemming from sexual assault, including 4,000 who sought disability benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs released the figures in response to inquiries from the Associated Press. Surprisingly, the AP reports, “men made up nearly 40 percent of the patients the VA treated last year for conditions connected to what it calls ‘military sexual trauma,’” defined “as any sexual activity where you are involved against your will.” Women, who serve in smaller numbers, are still vastly more likely to be victimized. According the VA, 1 in 5 women veterans experience military sexual trauma, compared to 1 in 100 men. Victims can receive free treatment at the VA, but, despite some improvements in the system, those who experience disability as the result of sexual abuse often have a hard time getting benefits. “The VA’s records indicate that veterans seeking compensation related to military sexual trauma had about a 1 in 2 chance of getting their claim approved last year, up from about 34 percent in June 2011,” the AP reports.