What is it about?

Approximately 17 years after 253 men and 663 women Veterans filed VA disability claims for PTSD and were turned down, we examined whether their claim status (aka service connection) had changed in the interim. At inception, 54.2% of men and 63.2% of women had any service connection –i.e., service connection for disorders other than PTSD (p = 0.01) and similar total disability ratings (p = 0.50). However, by study’s end, more men than women had any service connection (88.5% versus 83.5%, p = 0.05), and men’s mean total disability rating was substantially greater than women’s (77.1 ± 26.2 versus 66.8 ± 30.7, p < 0.001). Furthermore, as of August 24, 2016, 51.4% of the men and 31.3% of the women were service connected for PTSD (p < 0.001). Cohort men were more likely than the women to reverse initially denied PTSD claims. Service connection for other disorders initially offset women’s lower rate of PTSD service connection, but, ultimately, men’s total disability ratings exceeded women’s.

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Why is it important?

In 2010, the VA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that women were less likely than men to receive PTSD disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, women were more likely than men to be service connected for other mental disorders, and the net total disability benefits for men and women were approximately the same. The OIG therefore argued that women were not unduly harmed by the differences in PTSD service connection. Our study shows that, over time, discrepancies do arise in men and women's total disability benefits. Gender discrepancies in service connection should continue to be monitored beyond the initial claims period. More information is needed to understand why these discrepancies occurred.

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This page is a summary of: Reversals in initially denied Department of Veterans Affairs’ PTSD disability claims after 17 years: a cohort study of gender differences, BMC Women s Health, February 2021, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1186/s12905-021-01214-7.
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