Washington (CNN)The Department of Veterans Affairs incorrectly processed hundreds of claims related to military sexual trauma last year -- a breakdown in procedure that may have "resulted in the denial of benefits to veterans who could have been entitled to receive them," according to a report from the VA's Office of the Inspector General released Tuesday.
The Veterans Benefits Administration denied nearly half of the 12,000 claims that were filed in 2017 by veterans seeking support for post-traumatic stress disorder related to military sexual trauma, according to the department.
But investigators estimated that the VA failed to follow procedure when processing 1,300 of the 2,700 claims that were denied during a review period that spanned between April and September of 2017.
The report concluded that "multiple factors led to the improper processing and denial of (military sexual trauma)-related claims" during that time, including: "a lack of reviewers' specialization and no additional level of review, discontinued special focus reviews, and inadequate training."
"Incomplete processing may lead to inaccurate claims decisions and psychological harm to (military sexual trauma) victims," the report noted.
While the issue of sexual assault in the military has been widely reported for years, the momentum of the #MeToo movement has prompted a renewed effort for transparency within the armed services.
The Pentagon has said that it remains committed to addressing the issue of sexual assault and harassment within the ranks as survivors demand accountability from military leadership -- but encouraging victims to come forward and report sexually violent crimes remains a major challenge.
More than 5,200 service members reported a sexual assault in 2017 for "an incident that occurred during their military service, an increase of about 10 percent from the previous year," Tuesday's report said.