Ombud flags unfairness in treatment of sexual dysfunctions for female veterans

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OTTAWA — Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman warns that women who served in the Canadian Armed Forces face unacceptable barriers and biases when it comes to accessing federal assistance for sexual dysfunctions. The warning comes four years after Veterans Affairs Canada made it easier for male veterans who suffer from erectile dysfunction as a result of another psychological injury to get treatment and compensation for their condition. The decision to streamline the process followed clear links between diagnoses and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental disorders, and sexual dysfunctions. Yet Ombudsman Nishika Jardine’s report noted that there has been no similar rationalization for female veterans’ sexual dysfunction claims. This is despite what the report says is evidence that women are as likely to suffer from sexual dysfunction from such psychological injuries as men, if not more so. “VAC is streamlining claims for male veterans with erectile dysfunction caused by medications to treat psychiatric conditions,” Jardine wrote in his report released Thursday. “Sexual dysfunction claims for female veterans do not have an equivalent process. Yet research shows that drugs to treat psychiatric conditions like PTSD cause sexual dysfunction in both men and women. The result is that women are more likely to have to wait longer for compensation and access to treatment for sexual dysfunctions than their male counterparts, according to the report. Jardine also took issue with how Veterans Affairs Canada handles sexual dysfunction claims from female veterans, as staff have not been given instructions on how to properly assess these conditions, including decreased libido. “The lack of clarity surrounding the definition and judgment of decreased libido has plagued us throughout this investigation,” reads the ombud’s report. “The failure to clearly define and explain the decision-making process for libido decreased indicates that decision-makers were not clearly guided, in stark contrast to the streamlined process for the most common male sexual dysfunctions. ” Jardine also raised concerns about the limited amount of information Veterans Affairs has regarding the number of former members of the Armed Forces who have indicated that they suffer from sexual dysfunction. Veterans Affairs reported that more than 3,900 male veterans had been approved for treatment and compensation as of March 2021. The vast majority were related to erectile dysfunction. However, according to Jardine’s report, “the number of clients with cleared sexual dysfunction is unclear because their claims are combined with all client claims of reproductive or urinary issues.” This is not the first time that the veteran watchdog has expressed concern about the unfair treatment of female veterans. In 2018, the Ombudsman’s office found that women had to wait much longer for their disability claims to be processed by Veterans Affairs. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 21, 2022. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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