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Female Veterans and PTSD: A Veteran’s Guide

Female Veterans and PTSD: A Veteran’s Guide

America’s female Veterans have performed an invaluable service to our country. However, female Veterans also require support and benefits compensation for both physical injuries and mental disabilities, such as PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation surrounding female Veterans and PTSD, including frequency, symptoms, and benefits. Read on to learn more about acquiring PTSD benefits from The Department of Veterans Affairs as a female Veteran.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition characterized by symptoms like depression, anxiety, flashbacks, mood swings, and hypervigilance. PTSD occurs when a person experiences symptoms or feelings of trauma repeatedly. It’s usually triggered by experiencing one or more traumatic events called stressors.

Because of the nature of the service, many Veterans are at high risk of developing PTSD. For example, a Veteran may see a servicemember die in battle or the course of their duties and develop PTSD as a result.

PTSD can arise from many other causes as well, including:

  • Being in a traumatic or life-threatening accident
  • Combat exposure
  • Being sexually assaulted or experiencing sexual harassment. Military sexual trauma (MST) is more likely for female Veterans, and it may lead to the symptoms of PTSD
  • And more

No matter its cause, PTSD can be debilitating. VA Health Care providers recognize PTSD as a legitimate psychiatric condition and provide compensation benefits to those in the Veteran population whose PTSD arose as a result of their military service.

Are Female Veterans More Likely To Experience PTSD?

According to some statistics, women are more likely to develop and experience PTSD than men, not just in the military (though this trend also holds in the armed services). 

Women are approximately twice as likely than men to develop PTSD at a rate of 10% compared to 4% in men. There are several potential reasons for this.

For example, women are more likely to experience sexual assault and intimate partner violence in the civilian world and the military. This is unacceptable within an institution like the US military and outside of it, but it still occurs.

Regardless, female Veterans need to know what to expect if they develop PTSD and how to acquire benefits and other services from the VA so they can treat this psychiatric condition.

Does Sexual Assault Occur in the Military?

According to recent statistics, there were approximately 20,500 servicemembers who experienced sexual assault of some kind in the military in 2018. This was an unfortunate 38% increase compared to 2016.

According to similar data, military sexual assault affects women much more than men. Around 6.2% of active-duty female servicemembers experience sexual assault, compared to 0.7% of their male counterparts.

This is for various reasons, including toxic masculinity, problems with reporting sexual assault, and a tendency of higher-level officers to disbelieve female victims. Gender differences make women at a higher risk of combat-related sexual assault in areas like Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the majority of females in the military do not experience sexual assault, 6.2% is far too high a statistic. The military is currently undertaking measures to correct this, but it remains to be seen whether they will be successful. 

Medical centers and healthcare providers are working to reduce the number of women who are assaulted, but they are not completely successful.

Are There Differences in PTSD Symptoms Between Men and Women?

Female Veterans may experience varied PTSD symptoms compared to their male counterparts. For example, women are more likely to experience the following symptoms if they have PTSD:

  • Jumpiness
  • Difficulty feeling or expressing emotions
  • Heavy avoidance of things that remind them of trauma or stressors
  • A greater likelihood of feeling depressed or anxious

Male Veterans, on the other hand, are more likely to experience the following symptoms if they develop PTSD:

  • Greater difficulty controlling anger
  • A greater likelihood of having trouble with substance abuse
  • More difficulty expressing any emotion, even positive ones

This does not mean that female or male Veterans have a better or worse experience with PTSD. It’s simply important to understand how symptoms can vary so you can identify PTSD if you experience a traumatic event and seek help.

Both men and women will likely develop physical health problems upon developing PTSD. Those physical problems can worsen if the underlying PTSD is not treated. 

Furthermore, both can turn to substance use to compensate for combat experience or trauma, according to the Women’s Health branch of the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Are There VA Benefits for Female Veterans With PTSD?

If you believe you have developed PTSD as a female Veteran, know that the VA does provide several benefits and services for you.

To acquire these benefits, you must prove a medical nexus between your time in the military and your current PTSD diagnosis. This involves:

  • Proving that you have been diagnosed with PTSD by a licensed healthcare physician or therapist
  • Proving that you experienced or participated in a traumatic event in the military. You can do this by collecting lay statements from fellow servicemembers and your service records

Once you receive a service connection from the VA for your PTSD, you could benefit from the following services.

Disability Compensation

The VA provides disability compensation to Veterans with service-connected PTSD. This compensation depends on your disability rating, ranging from 0% to 100%. Most Veterans with service-connected PTSD receive a disability rating of 70%. 

However, this can be higher or lower depending on your symptoms and how severely your PTSD impacts your social and workplace functioning.

The compensation can add up to thousands of dollars per month depending on your marital status and whether or not you have any dependents.

Mental Health Services

In addition to monthly compensation, the VA provides mental health services for traumatized Veterans, including female Veterans. This starts with mental health assessments and screening, which may help you identify PTSD or other psychiatric conditions you may have developed.

The VA further provides therapy, including trauma-focused psychotherapies such as Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR), and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy.

In addition, the VA will help you find therapists or clinics so you can undergo individual, couples, or family therapy. The VA can also assist if you require group therapy for stress or anger management. 

In short, if you want help treating your PTSD through therapy or other mental health services, the VA can guide you through the process and connect you to important programs.

The VA may help you acquire certain medications, like antidepressant medications, to assist with your PTSD symptoms. This can be necessary for some individuals with PTSD, though each individual is different.

Peer Specialists and Recovery Plans

The VA connects Veterans with PTSD to peer specialists: Veterans who have already experienced and recovered from the same or similar mental health conditions. When you are assigned a peer specialist, they will help you design a personalized recovery plan to get your life back on track and regain control of your mental health.

What To Do If You Experience PTSD as a Female Veteran

If you are a female Veteran and have developed PTSD because of your military service, you have many options. You should contact knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys right away so you can fully grasp your legal possibilities and so you have assistance filing for disability compensation and other benefits.

After contacting your lawyers, start by filing VA Form 21-526. This is the standard form by which you begin all disability benefits applications. Next, you’ll gather evidence from peers, fellow service people, and your friends and family members to supplement medical evidence of your PTSD diagnosis.

With the assistance of your lawyers, you’ll file your claim for disability benefits and receive the compensation you deserve for your service to our country.

Contact Berry Law Today

Female Veterans deserve to be compensated for their disabilities just like male Veterans, especially regarding mental health disorders and conditions like PTSD. Because female Veterans are more likely to experience PTSD, they need to know their legal options and what resources to take advantage of to ensure they acquire as much compensation as possible.

Berry Law can help with this and much more. Our educated attorneys are well-equipped and ready to assist with your benefits claim and can help you understand what you qualify for PTSD compensation as a female Veteran.

Contact us today to get started with a free case evaluation.

Sources:

Home | SAPR.mil 

PTSD | Women Veterans Health Care | VA.gov

National Center for PTSD | VA.gov 

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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