DOI: 10.1002/jts.23034 ISSN: 0894-9867

Examining bias in the award of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits for posttraumatic stress disorder in women veterans: Analysis of evaluation reports and VA decisions

Mayumi O. Gianoli, Andrew W. Meisler, Rebecca Gordon
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


Studies have raised concerns about possible inequities in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s awards of disability for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to women. However, the diagnoses and opinions made by disability examiners have not been studied. A sample of 270 initial PTSD examination reports and corresponding VA decisions were studied. Compared to men, women veterans were as likely to be diagnosed with a service‐related mental disorder, χ2(1, N = 270) = 2.31, p = .129, odds ratio (OR) = 1.79, 95% CI [0.84, 3.80], and be granted service‐connection, χ2(1, N = 270) = 0.49, p = .483, OR = 1.28, 95% CI [0.65, 2.51]. Women veterans were considered to have more psychiatric symptoms, Z = −2.05, p = .041, r = .16, and more psychiatric impairment, Z = −2.48, p = .013, r = .20, but the percentage of disability awarded by the VA did not differ, χ2(1, N = 270) = 0.49, p = .483; OR = 1.28, 95% CI [0.65, 2.51]. Secondary analyses implicate the role of military sexual trauma and premilitary trauma in explaining sex differences in symptoms and impairment. The findings indicate that neither opinions by examiners nor corresponding decisions by the VA regarding service connection reflect a negative bias toward women veterans. Results indicate that unbiased examinations lead to equitable VA claims decisions for women veterans. Future studies of the VA PTSD disability program nationally, including examination procedures and VA policies and implementation, will promote equity for women veterans in the PTSD claims process.

More from our Archive