Military Sexual Trauma and VA Benefits
Awareness of Military Sexual Trauma or MST is on the rise as more veterans, not just female veterans, are filing MST related VA Disability Claims. There are plenty of questions surrounding VA benefits for MST and how to even go about filing a claim for compensation. Dealing with the effects of MST along with trying to figure out the VA claims process is certainly not easy. In this blog post, we will discuss how you can prove MST, how to file a claim, as well as the benefits that may be available to you.
Proving Military Sexual Trauma
In any VA disability case, credible supporting evidence is one of the most important factors. In MST cases, sometimes finding supporting evidence to corroborate the sexual assault can be difficult and can lead to denied claims. Often times, MST goes unreported due to fear of retaliation. Because most veterans do not have any documentation showing that the MST occurred, the VA does not require that service medical records contain proof of the MST. There are many forms of proof that the VA will accept for proving MST such as:
- Lay statements from fellow service members, family members, roommates or counselors
- Police records
- Pregnancy tests and/or any tests for sexually transmitted diseases
- Journals or notes that you wrote during the time of the trauma
A really good tip when looking for evidence to help prove MST is to read through your service records and service treatment records. You can search for “markers” in your record that help prove that an event happened in service that changed your behavior. Markers can be any behavior changes such as:
- Substance abuse problem
- Marital difficulties or sexual dysfunction
- Documentation of request for transfer of duty station
- Changes in work performance
- Social and economic behavioral changes
- Unexplained depression and/or anxiety, panic attacks
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
When it comes to MST claims, VA disability compensation is not given for MST alone. Disability compensation can be awarded for a mental health condition that is related to MST. Like any other VA disability claim, you must file for the mental health condition that is related to your MST on the proper form such as filing MST-related PTSD claims. You can easily file your claim for disability benefits online or by using a VA Form 21-526EZ to get started on service connection veterans benefits.
VA Benefits available for Veterans who suffered MST
The VA has designated an MST Coordinator at every VA Health Care System that is used as a contact for MST-related claims or issues to help veterans access VA services and programs and/or local and state programs found at the regional office. These people can help Veterans find and access VA services and programs. The VA also provides treatment for mental and physical conditions that are related to MST for free. To learn more about VA health care for MST, please click here.
It is important to remember that Military Sexual Trauma is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are a veteran who is dealing with the effects of Military Sexual Trauma, do not delay in filing an MST-related claim. It is also very important to get the help and treatment that you need. Claims for MST can often be difficult, but with the right tools and evidence, it is not impossible for your veteran’s claim to be won and to receive service connection benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.