A Female Veteran with PTSD from Sexual Assault Receives Life-Changing News After Years of Suffering

Jennifer Bell was on active duty in 1979 when she was sexually assaulted by multiple fellow service members. Sadly, attacks like this are all-too-common. By the Department of Defense’s own estimate almost one-third of all US women veterans experience rape or sexual assault while in service.

As a result of the assault, Ms. Bell suffered from severe PTSD and experiences debilitating anxiety, depression and nightmares. She had been homeless for over twelve years, and for the last year and a half she had been living in her car. Recognizing that she needed help, Ms. Bell filed three requests with the VA for service-connected benefits over the course of twelve years. Each of these requests was denied.

Ms. Bell came to Inner City Law Center, desperate for help. There she met Melissa Tyner, a staff attorney in our Homeless Veterans Project. Melissa helped Ms. Bell to appeal the denial of her claim and asserted Ms. Bell’s right to a hearing. At the hearing, Melissa established that the VA had been applying an incorrect standard to assess Ms. Bell’s claim and was able to fight for the decision to be turned around.

Ms. Bell received almost $80,000 in retroactive benefits and $2,632.00 every month, which she will continue to receive for the rest of her life. She will also now benefits from increased access to the VA health care that she desperately needs. Ms. Bell cried “tears of joy and relief” when Melissa called her with the news. Then she stepped out of the car where she has been living and “danced a little jig.” She expressed tremendous gratitude to Melissa and everyone at Inner City Law Center for their assistance.