VA’s strategy for MST adjudication

Dear President Trump,

A well-traveled friend suggested this morning that we consider swapping out “hit on” with the British expression “chat up” when we want to talk about flirting. I like it! It’s much more in keeping with what is (hopefully) actually happening and is leagues friendlier and not edgy at all. How about it? Seems like a good start for tipping our universe in a better direction.

I also realized this morning that if there was any interest in investigating Dr. Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, the FBI could benefit from taking some pages from how the VA’s evaluates veterans’ claims of military sexual trauma (MST). The VA is not under pressure to definitively “prove” that MST did or didn’t take place and so the various veteran service organizations that help vets put together their claims generally take the tack of gathering as much circumstantial evidence as they can muster demonstrating the negative fallout from the alleged incident. This is ideally done using the veterans’ official service record, which is combed through for anomalies that correspond in time to the assault(s). Did the person have to retake trainings? Did they start getting poor performance reports at a certain juncture? Were there more sick calls? There is almost always some something that indicates the person was dealing with a major unnamed stressor, something that set the person back substantially enough to be apparent. It can be tricky when an MST victim consciously or unconsciously goes into hyper-control mode and strives to be perfect – then the official record can be confusing as it doesn’t clearly reflect distress or disorder. But really, it’s there if one is willing to look and accept that people cope with attacks to their person in all sorts of ways.

My sense from the news reports is that if the official record of Dr. Ford’s life (grades, activities, test scores, shifting aspirations, etc.) were to be examined by a VA MST claim adjudicator, there would be plenty there to suggest that something really shitty happened to her when she was 15. Clearly it wouldn’t indicate that all arrows point to Kavanaugh having done that shitty thing, but it could help ground her testimony appropriately. Ultimately, though we need Mark Judge to have to testify under oath.

May we be safe to speak up about assaults whenever we feel it’s time.
May we all be willing to reckon with the long-term consequences of sexual assault.
May we insist on healthy, respectful social and work environments.
May we make peace with all that’s been buried so we can deal with it.

Tracy Simpson

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