A sign for the Department of Veterans Affairs is shown. (AP Photo)
A sign for the Department of Veterans Affairs is shown. (AP Photo)
A sign for the Department of Veterans Affairs is shown. (AP Photo)

(The Washington Post) – Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get health-care treatment and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the grounds that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual trauma in the military. The veterans and their advocates call it “the second battle” — with a bureaucracy they say is stuck in the past.

Judy Atwood-Bell was just a 19-year-old Army private when she says she was locked inside a barracks room at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, forced to the cold floor and raped by a fellow solider.

For more than two decades, Atwood-Bell fought for an apology and financial compensation from VA for PTSD, with panic attacks, insomnia and severe depression that she recalls started soon after that winter day in 1981. She filled out stacks of forms in triplicate and then filled them out again, pressing over and over for recognition of the harm that was done.

The department labels it “military sexual trauma” (MST), covering any unwanted contact, including sexual innuendo, groping and rape.

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