The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs yesterday intensified its crime against America’s veterans with yet another illegal denial of Mary Kay McCollum’s claim for disability benefits. Her claim stems from being raped, drugged and threatened with murder by a superior officer while she was on active Navy duty. Those assaults left Ms. McCollum permanently disabled. As a result, she has never been able to complete her education or support herself.
The facts in Ms. McCollum’s case are extensively documented in two earlier stories published on this blog site. (See “The VA’s High Crime,” and “Raping Mary Kay,” below.)
In a denial letter dated February 14, 2018, VA wrote: “Earlier effective date for grant of 100 percent evaluation for posttraumatic stress disorder prior to June 28, 2017 is denied…as the medical evidence does not show increased symptoms prior to this date.”
That conclusion is wrong. As reported in “Raping Mary Kay,” Ms. McCollum’s disability was first documented by the Navy itself in 1983. That’s when the Navy discharged her as a “Misfit” after her mental health and professional performance collapsed following her rapes, forced drug abuse and murder threats.
Ms. McCollum’s medical records and VA files bristle with evidence of her PTSD. Evidence on file shows that while Ms. McCollum was still on active duty she succumbed to substance abuse and attempted suicide after being sexually assaulted. Years later, in 2004 and 2011, two different VA mental health counselors diagnosed her with PTSD caused by her Navy rapes.
Despite those diagnoses, the VA denied Ms. McCollum PTSD benefits. VA later conceded those denials were “fatally flawed” and granted Ms. McCollum partial benefits.
Following a medical examination on June 28, 2017 in which she suffered a hysterical breakdown, VA finally conceded that Ms. McCollum’s PTSD “resulted in total occupational and social impairment.” VA granted her a total disability award at that time.
However, the VA’s February 14 letter, which Ms. McCollum received yesterday, argues there is no evidence of her total disability prior to her June 28, 2017 medical exam.
Not only does that conclusion contradict the extensive record of disability that Ms. McCollum has provided the VA, it contradicts criteria contained in the VA’s March 2016 Military Sexual Trauma Compensation Bulletin (see link in “Raping Mary Kay”) and it violates the laws cited by VA which govern benefits awards and their dates.
In a May 24, 2017 letter to Ms. McCollum, VA informed her that it bases benefits award dates on, “When we received your claim, OR (emphasis in original) When the evidence shows a certain rating under the rating schedule.”
Based on the recommendation of her VA mental health counselor, Ms. McCollum first applied for PTSD benefits in October 2004.
In a September 5, 2017, letter VA informed Ms. McCollum that in making awards decisions it must follow a federal law requiring that PTSD applicants be given the benefit of the doubt. The law: CFR 38, Section 4.3.
Applying the benefit-of-the-doubt law to the evidence in Ms. McCollum’s case and the evidence standard defined in VA’s March 2016 Military Sexual Trauma Compensation Bulletin yields a correct PTSD benefit award date of 1983. That’s when the Navy discharged her after her Military Sexual Trauma totally disabled her.
With its February 14, 2018 illegal denial of the legal 1983 award date, VA continues a pattern of arbitrary and contrived evidence evaluation that amounts to fraudulent denial of veteran benefits. The VA’s kangaroo court of benefits adjudication stresses veterans already pushed to the breaking point by their military trauma.
“Treatment records from Spokane Vet Center shows [sic] that from May to June you were noted to be oriented to all spheres with mood being fair and affect appropriate to content, linear thought processes, and normal thought content,” wrote VA in the February 14 letter. “Speech was normal and you reported no delusions, disorganized thinking, or hallucinations. You denied suicidal ideation.”
That assertion so directly contradicts Ms. McCollum’s Spokane Vet Center records as to amount to evidence tampering. Her records show that, in 2016, she had so frightened herself with angry and intimidating outbursts toward someone whom she felt had insulted her that she sought counseling at Spokane Vet Center. The record also shows that Ms. McCollum was so beset by thoughts of killing herself that for the last several years the VA Veterans Suicide Crisis Hotline repeatedly called her at all hours. The VA’s own records should show that.
Further, subjective characterizations such as “you were noted to be oriented to all spheres with mood being fair and affect appropriate to content, linear thought processes, and normal thought content” are simply irrelevant to the brutal reality of PTSD. Sufferers experience twice the suicide rate of any other mental health diagnoses. A paper presented at the 2014 American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting reported: “Unemployment Biggest Predictor of PTSD Symptom Severity.” (Again, see “Raping Mary Kay.”)
Next to Ms. McCollum’s never being able to work because of her PTSD, and the Navy’s discharge of her for that very reason, what does “oriented to all spheres with mood being fair” have to do with anything?
VA’s latest denial of Ms. McCollum’s correct benefits award date so distorts and misstates the evidence in her case as to epitomize the “institutional rape” of which victims of Military Sexual Trauma accuse both VA and the U.S. military.