Women make up approximately 20% of active-duty servicemembers in the military and about 11% of veterans in the U.S. It’s projected that over the next decade, the number of female veterans and those needing health services provided by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will double. One of the most common disability claims made by female veterans is for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Women Veterans and PTSD
PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a person witnesses or lives through a life-changing or traumatic incident. After being involved in this type of event, a person might have difficulty sleeping, going to work, or maintaining a normal routine. After a few weeks, most people recover, and their symptoms diminish. However, if symptoms persist longer than a month and interfere with your relationships, your work, and your life, you may have PTSD.
Both men and women servicemembers experience some of the same symptoms of PTSD, including re-experiencing the event and using avoidance to cope with the memories. However, women tend to experience the trauma of combat differently than men. While men typically feel anger and have trouble controlling that anger, women tend to have trouble feeling emotions, are more nervous, and are likely to avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Additionally, men often develop problems with alcohol and drugs, while women with PTSD tend to feel anxious and depressed.
Stressors That Cause or Contribute to PTSD in Women Veterans
Witnessing a traumatic event while deployed is a primary cause of PTSD. However, there are other stressors that may cause or contribute to female veterans developing this mental health condition, including:
- Loneliness. When military personnel are deployed to new areas, it can feel lonely. It takes a while to create friendships and develop trust with other soldiers. Because it’s important to feel supported and that you’re part of a united team, being an outsider or a new member can be difficult, and this often takes a higher toll on women.
- Family concerns. When women are given little advance notice and/or are deployed for long or indefinite periods of time, military service can be especially challenging, particularly for those who have been caretakers of elderly parents or have small children. Often, women soldiers feel they’re delaying or postponing their lives and feel stress that they can’t be with or take care of the people they love. It’s common for both men and women to feel overwhelmed if there are difficulties at home; however, women often find it hard to return to their job as a parent and may have problems adjusting.
- Military sexual trauma (MST). More than any other traumatic event, sexual assault causes PTSD in women. MST includes unwanted sexual advances, degrading and/or offensive sexual comments, and sexual assault. After a female soldier experiences MST, they may develop depression, anxiety, issues feeling safe, problems with alcohol, and sleep problems. The Wounded Warrior Project reports that women veterans who experience MST are approximately three times more likely to have symptoms of PTSD than those female veterans who did not experience MST.
VA Ratings for Service-Connected PTSD
In the 2020 Wounded Warrior Annual Survey, 80% of women veterans reported living with PTSD. To receive VA disability benefits for PTSD, it’s important to understand the VA ratings for this mental health condition.
The VA rates PTSD under 38 CFR § 4.130, Diagnostic code 9411, and ratings are assigned for the severity of symptoms. A disabled veteran could receive a 1, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100% rating, depending on how severe their symptoms are and how they interfere with their ability to work and function. For example, you might receive a 30% rating if your symptoms include mild memory loss, panic attacks, depression, and anxiety and if your ability and productivity at work are sometimes impaired. To receive a 100% disability rating, you must be completely disabled and totally impaired at work and in social settings; you must exhibit persistent delusions, be a danger to yourself and others, and display extreme memory loss; and you must portray an inconsistent ability to function in normal life and take care of yourself.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a female veteran seeking VA disability for PTSD, or you need help making the service connection for this condition, contact the legal team at Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we will help document your symptoms with your treating medical providers to describe the full extent of your limitations. We know exactly how much these disability benefits mean to you. If we accept your case, we will take all steps within the law to help you get them. If your PTSD is making it impossible for you to live a normal life or keep a job, contact Cuddigan Law to speak with an intake specialist for free.