Navy veteran Ruth Moore with her husband Butch and daughter Sam. The former sailor is receiving more than $400,000 in backdated disability benefits from VA stemming from two sexual assaults she suffered while in uniform in 1987. (Courtesy of Ruth Moore)
Twenty-seven years after she was sexually assaulted by a petty officer in her chain of command, Navy veteran Ruth Moore will receive $405,000 in compensation to cover the time when she should have been diagnosed with a disability.
The Veterans Affairs Department wrote in a May 28 letter to Moore that it had made a “clear and unmistakable error” when it decided in 1993 that the depression from which she suffers was not related to her attacks.
VA decided to award Moore full benefits based on evidence that was not available when her initial claim was filed, said VA spokesman Randal Noller, who added that he could not get into the specifics of the case due to privacy laws.
VA’s decision does not affect other veterans who have filed claims that they suffer a disability as a result of sexual assault.
“However, VA is aware of the sensitive nature of these claims and the fact that military records do not always contain evidence” of the in-service sexual trauma event, Noller said in an email to Military Times.
For that reason, and “to provide veterans with the greatest possible consideration of available evidence supporting their claims,” VA is inviting veterans whose sexual trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder claims were previously denied to “request a re-evaluation of that decision,” Noller said.
From 2008 to 2013, a total of 17,714 claims filed by veterans who sought disability compensation in connection for a sexual assault were denied, representing 60 percent of all such claims filed during that period, according to figures provided by VA. However, the percentage of claims approved also has increased in that time.
In 2008, VA approved 866 claims from veterans seeking disability compensation related to a sexual assault — 26 percent of all such claims veterans filed that year, according to VA data. In 2013, that number rose to 4,427 claims approved, or 50 percent of the such claims filed that year.
Moore was sexually assaulted twice in 1987, she told Military Times in an interview. When she could not get any help afterward, she tried to commit suicide. The Navy responded by charging her with “destruction of government property” and threw her in the brig.
Then she was sent to National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where she was diagnosed with a mental health disorder and separated without benefits.
“I was young; I didn’t know what was going on,” Moore said. “They basically said, ‘Well, you’re a military spouse; don’t worry about it; your husband will take care of you.’ We get divorced ... he couldn’t take care of me ... and all of a sudden I realized I needed help, so I started to try to get help with VA, and that’s when everything happened.”
More than a decade later, VA awarded her partial disability benefits based on her service record, she said. This ultimately paved the way for her to receive full benefits.
“The undeniable error was, if you use my service record in 2004 to determine I had a disability, why didn’t you use my service record in 1993 to determine I had the disability?” Moore said. “And they agreed; they did not use my service record when they should have.”
Now that she will receive the disability compensation she is due, Moore said she plans to use the money to help other veterans who have been through similar experiences.
“Long-term ... we are starting a nonprofit called ‘Internity,’ and this nonprofit is going to be for survivors of sexual assault,” she said. “Our mission is to empower survivors to reconnect with their humanity because a sexual assault survivor loses all sense of self ... through the actual act of violence, the victim-blaming and the societal perceptions afterward.”