Since the Revolutionary War, women have served in the U.S. military. Today, female veterans are the fastest-growing group of U.S. veterans and make up approximately 10% of the country’s 22 million veteran population. It’s projected that by 2040, this number will increase to 18%. Today, there are more than 2 million women veterans in the U.S., and approximately 500,000 of these veterans are disabled. Additionally, nearly 55% of these women have a service-connected health condition rated at 50 % or higher.
Common Disabilities That Affect Women Veterans
Both men and women in the U.S. armed forces face a high risk of illness and/or injury. Not only do they undergo rigorous training, but their daily routines also involve exhausting physical activity and combat. However, there are some disabilities that are more common in servicewomen than in men, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental health condition can occur when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic and/or life-threatening event. Most people recover from the event over time; however, some people have symptoms that continue for years following the incident. Approximately 48,000 female veterans suffer from PTSD—about 12% of all service-connected conditions among women veterans.
- Military sexual trauma (MST). Often, female veterans develop PTSD due to MST. However, because many women don’t typically report sexual assault, obtaining disability benefits for PTSD is difficult, as the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires credible evidence that proves there was an in-service stressor causing the PTSD. If the MST was reported and documented in a woman’s medical records, a disability claim is easier to get approved. Additionally, if your record shows that at a certain point, your excellent military performance declined, this can be used as a “behavioral marker,” indicating that your behavior and conduct changed. These markers can help you obtain a successful claim of PTSD related to MST.
- Migraines. Approximately 24,000 female veterans receive VA disability for migraines. These headaches can be debilitating because the patient often experiences light and noise sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting, and they sometimes they need to lie down in complete darkness. Migraines are often secondary to some other service-connected conditions such as neck or back pain.
- Chronic back pain. In 2015, over 50% of servicewomen were treated for musculoskeletal conditions of the back. Because the military requires such physically demanding work, low back pain is a common problem and seen more often in female veterans than in male veterans. Cervical strains, disc problems, and degenerative arthritis of the spine can all occur due to repetitive stress on the back and neck.
- Gynecological conditions. Many gynecological conditions are recognized by the VA, including pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, fibroids, uterine prolapse, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. A woman veteran doesn’t have to prove that any of these conditions occurred because of an in-service incident. As long as the condition first started while in service, that’s all that’s needed to prove a service connection. Most of these gynecological conditions are rated at 30% or lower.
- Depression. The second most common service-connected condition seen in women veterans is depression. Female veterans are 1.7 times more likely to experience depression than male veterans. VA benefits claims for depression don’t require a traumatic event or stressor. However, it helps if there is some type of documentation in the woman’s medical records that shows they talked to a doctor and sought treatment for feelings of depression.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a female veteran seeking disability benefits from the VA for service-connected medical conditions that have left you unable to work, 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 health condition is making it impossible for you to live a normal life or keep a job, contact Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405, to speak with an intake specialist for free.