CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s a problem the military doesn’t like to talk about. But thousands of soldiers are sexually assaulted every year by fellow soldiers. Now one of them is speaking out about how the Veterans Administration failed him, denying him benefits for decades as he continued to be haunted by the memory of a sexual assault. CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports.
Bob Karbin was in basic training at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1969, the height of the Vietnam War. That’s when he says two other solders in the barracks grabbed him, one holding a bayonet up to his throat.
“They slapped me upside the face and dragged me in the back room,” said Karbin.
That’s where he says they performed various sexual acts on him.
“It’s an experience I don’t wish on my worst enemy,” he said. “It haunts you forever.”
Shortly after the rape, Karbin was given an honorable discharge from the military, but the psychological effects of the attack drove him to seek help at the Hines Veterans Hospital in 1970.
“I filed for a nervous disorder,” he said. “I was denied a nervous disorder because they said there was no records available to show that there was a nervous disorder.”
But there are. Karbin’s hospital records from the night of the attack in 1969 show a diagnosis of “bad nerves” and “severe nervous problem.”
But they said these documents didn’t exist when he tried to file a claim months after it happened.
“I’m disappointed, I’m angry, I’m pissed off,” said Karbin.
In 2009, there were more than 3,200 reports of sexual assaults documented by the military, an 11 percent increase from 2008. But the report indicates the number could be as high as 16,000 because statistics show only 20 percent report it to a military authority.
We asked Dr. Kelly Maieritsch, a clinical psychologist at Hines Veterans Hospital, what the worst case scenario is for those who go untreated.
“Losing jobs, losing relationships, withdrawing from people, withdrawing from society, becoming potentially very hopeless,” said Dr. Maieritsch. “And the absolute worst case scenario: start considering suicide.”
Those are all symptoms Bob Karbin has struggled with for decades.
“I would rather have taken a bullet in Vietnam,” he said.
After years of red tape, the VA finally granted Karbin 100 percent disability in 2004. But Karbin is still fighting for benefits he says he should have received for the 35 years the VA ignored him — about $550,000.
“It’s like getting raped over and over and over again,” Karbin said. “That’s what the VA is doing to me.”
There are no numbers available on how many others have tried and failed to get disability benefits.
And the VA refused to comment on Karbin’s claim. An administrative law judge recently ruled that Karbin’s original 1970 claim remains open and active, so his fight continues.
Meanwhile, today the VA hospital in Hines will treat any veteran for Military Sexual Trauma, no questions asked. You can just walk in and get help.