Tsongas and Turner Want VA to Answer for Sexual Assault Survivors Report

Internal watchdog report says roughly half of all benefit claims were incorrectly processed

Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, sent a letter criticizing the Veterans Benefits Administration after an inspector general’s report revealed mishandling of sexual assault cases. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The bipartisan co-chairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus want the Veterans Benefits Administration to answer for a recent report showing negligence.

A report released last week from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Inspector General found the VBA incorrectly processed 1,300 of 2,700 benefit claims related to sexual assault between April and September 2017.

The revelation comes despite the VBA announcement in 2011 that it updated guidance by saying it would take a “liberal approach” in examining claims.

[Tsongas May Be Leaving, But Work on Sexual Assault Is Never Done]

Reps. Mike Turner and Niki Tsongas criticized the administration in a letter to Paul Laurence, undersecretary of benefits at the department.

“The number of veterans potentially impacted is staggering and unacceptable,” the letter said.

Turner, a Republican, and Tsongas, a Democrat who is retiring at the end of this term, requested written responses about how the department processes claims, how the VBA became aware the benefits were not properly processed, what oversight will be put in place and what the plan is for reviewing trauma claims that were denied after the 2011 change.

“We expect that your administration is working diligently to correct these problems to ensure that veterans and survivors of sexual assault are provided the benefits and resources they deserve,” the letter said. 

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