Sometimes things just go terribly wrong. A young person volunteers to serve his/her country and in the process becomes a victim of assault.
Personal assault can be a physical beating, rape, domestic battery, robbery and even harassment. Personal assault under VA regulations does not include harm caused by an enemy force.
Due to the nature of personal assaults, sometimes a service member’s entire outlook on his or her military career is changed. A once exemplary military member may start to have poor evaluations or request a transfer. Sometimes, the situation becomes bad enough the armed forces member is dismissed for such things as a “personality disorder” or “adjustment disorder.”
The Veterans Administration does compensate victims of personal assault if the trauma causes a current condition to the veteran. However, the veteran must prove that an assault occurred. This is particularly difficult because these things often go unreported at the time they occur.
VA recognizes this and has promulgated regulations which are designed to assist veterans with mental health claims based on a personal assault as a stressor. For instance, the absence of service records documenting the assault is not evidence against it having happened if the veteran states she/he did not report it. AZ v. Shinseki, 731 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2013).
38 C.F.R. §3.304(f)(5) gives examples of evidence that support a veteran’s claim of personal assault. These include:
- evidence of behavior changes after the claimed assault such as affidavits from family members noting such behavior changes,
- counseling center records,
- medical records showing pregnancy or STD testing,
- police reports.
The VA is required to let those who have a claim based on personal assault know his or her rights. A notice needs to be sent to the veteran of alternative ways to prove a personal assault under the above regulation.
Reliving the stress in the pursuit of a claim for personal assault is challenging. The regulations are designed to help. Please seek help if your claim has been denied.