Coping with re-traumatization when applying for benefits associated with Military Sexual Trauma

Last Updated‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎

Written by

Table of Contents

Many Veterans suffer from PTSD or anxiety disorders because of experiencing sexual trauma during their service. However, they are reluctant to report it or seek benefits or services due to the fears of having to retell their story. The act of confronting their past trauma is often referred to by mental health professionals as “re-traumatization.”  Re-traumatization is caused by the anxiety of having to deal with past trauma or the retelling of the incident either in therapy or on stressor statements when applying for benefits. Often times, benefits will be denied if a Veteran has not reported or sought services such as therapy or the assistance of a Sexual Assault Center, but many victims of MST resist seeking help to prevent the re-traumatization. However, the long-lasting effects of MST far outweigh the re-traumatization a victim may experience in starting the process of healing and applying for services and benefits.

Reporting the trauma, even years later, starts a victim on the road to healing. This process allows a victim to move from victimization to healing and empowerment. It allows the Veteran to start the healing process and begin to take back their life.  However, ensuring a Veteran works with a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma will help reduce the re-traumatization and ease the transition from victim to survivor. Sexual trauma experts can work with victims in identifying coping skills to deal with the aftermath of the trauma. They can also assist Veterans in writing their stressor statements by being present when the Veteran is writing it, or by suggesting the Veteran write their stressor statement immediately prior to a therapy session so they can work through the emotions that writing it brings.

Reporting and attending therapy also provides evidence for a compensation claim. When a Veteran files a claim for MST related PTSD, there is usually no reported incidents in service of the MST. With that in mind, the VA will require some evidence of the event such as noted behavioral changes, reporting to an outside agency (a local sexual assault center or hotline), or attendance at  private or group therapy sessions either at the VA, with a private therapist, or at a sexual assault or victim service center. Having an established therapist can also assist with the process of applying for benefits.

A Veteran must have several things to file for compensation:

  1. A current mental health diagnosis by a Psychologist or Psychiatrist. Victim/sexual assault centers can often make referrals for Veterans who are not currently receiving VA health benefits. Also, often times Veterans do not want to use the VA Health services due to stigma or fears, so this can be a viable alternative.
  2. A completed application for benefits. This is a VA Form 526 and can be found here.
  3. A “Nexus” Statement. This is a statement from the diagnosing provider that links the event of MST to the current diagnosis.
  4. Evidence to support the claim; this could consist of therapy treatment, medical treatment such as STD/HIV testing or SANE exam, service records that show a change in performance ratings, request for transfer, or to be relieved of duty, buddy statements that relate changes in behaviors, drug or alcohol problems (including prescription drug use), relationship difficulties, suicide attempts, hospitalizations, or other incidents that can be related to anxiety, depression, or traumatization.

Despite the risks of retraumatization, healing can only occur when steps are taken to start the healing process. Receiving VA benefits, including health services and compensation, can assist a victim by providing therapy services and monetary assistance to regain control of their life and become a survivor, empowering them to recover and regain their sense of self worth, sense of self, and sense of security in a world that is currently full of fear and hurt. Having the assistance of a therapist during this will help decrease the trauma and ease the process for many Veterans. Veterans can find a list of local sexual assault service provides here as well as the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673).

Written by

More Articles

News and advice about the VA, disability ratings and benefits.


Supporting Veterans Nationwide

  • Thank you to the firm of Hill & Ponton!! Brian Hill and his staff were able to get my 100% disability with the VA for my exposure to herbicides in Thailand. I have been fighting for this for many years and kept getting denied, after consulting with Hill & Ponton I decided to let them help me and it was the best decision I could have made. I found their professionalism to be outstanding.

    – Chip P.

    North Carolina

  • They got my disability rating after I was denied twice. They knew exactly how to format and submit the claim. I was rated 50%, Hill & Ponton weren’t done, they found other medical that related to exposure and submitted additional claims. I could not have received a disability rating without Hill & Ponton. If you need help, choose Hill & Ponton.

    – Thomas D.


  • The service provided by Hill and Ponton was exemplary. The lawyers and staff took care of every aspect with respect and understanding of the clients needs. In my case, as a new widow, they patiently walked me through each step. They kept me informed of the progress. I cannot say enough about the service they provided. Thank you Brian and staff.

    – Judith K Zitzewitz


  • As a Vet you may have filed a disability claim, and if you want to win your claim you need to call Hill and Ponton. I didn’t know what to do about my condition or status until I made the call. At H&P they not only took my case, but made me feel like family. They changed my life and they will change your life too. It’s true! In my opinion you can’t do better and you won’t regret it!

    – Paul K



About Hill & Ponton

Learn about the VA disability law firm, champions for veterans since 1986.