New data from the Department of Defense reveals that the prevalence of military sexual trauma, or MST, has reached new heights. Military sexual trauma is the term the VA uses to describe the effects of sexual violence, abuse or harassment experienced by a military service member during active duty.
If you are suffering from the effects of military sexual trauma, important veterans’ disability benefits are available to you. If you have questions or need help with a VA claim for MST disability benefits, please call now and speak with us confidentially and without cost.
Even if your military sexual assault incident occurred years ago, that does not prevent you from obtaining VA disability compensation. Our attorneys have assisted many veterans, who years ago suffered instances of rape, sexual assault, vicious threats or other unwelcome acts of a sexual nature and now live with a resulting mental or physical impairment, to prevail in their claims for VA compensation.
We urge you to reach us by calling 800-562-9830 or using our online Consultation Form on this page.
DoD Releases New Stats on the Prevalence of Sexual Assault in the Military
As reported in the recently released Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (Fiscal Year 2018), sexual assaults have spiked in the last two years.
Specifically, the estimated prevalence of MST for active duty women increased, but remained unchanged for men.
In 2018, military sexual assaults rose at a rate of 37.5%. These numbers represent 6.2 percent women, and 0.7 percent men. The report surveyed men and women in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines regarding unwanted sexual contact.
The report also indicates that, while US military troops have increased their reporting of incidents, still only one in three service members choose to report their experience of sexual assault to a Department of Defense authority.
The DoD Annual Report spells out plans going forward in 2019 and beyond to address the prevalence of military sexual trauma, with the goal to eliminate sexual assault from the military. This includes prevention efforts by each military service branch (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and National Guard) with programs to
- promote advocacy and assistance for MST victims,
- address the problem of sexual assault-related retaliation,
- ensuring even more confidentiality to service men and women in their reporting of MST,
- strengthen the recruiting process to gauge the character of potential recruits.
We help veterans obtain MST veterans benefits.
VA claim attorneys at Marc Whitehead & Associates assist veterans in pursuing disability claims for military sexual trauma. MST involves any sexual activity that you are involved with against your will. These sexual behaviors happen to both women and men.
The definition of MST is provided by 38 U.S.C. Veterans’ Benefits § 1720D, Counseling and treatment for sexual trauma:
“…psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a mental health professional employed by the Department, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.”
Sexual harassment is further defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”
Experiences of military sexual trauma include:
- Being threatened, intimidated or bullied into sexual activities
- Someone implies fast promotions in exchange for sex, and negative consequences if you refuse
- Someone having sexual contact with you when you are unable to consent, such as when you were asleep or intoxicated
- Being physically forced to have sex
- Unwanted sexual touching or grabbing
- Offensive comments about your body or sexual activities
- Threatening and unwanted sexual advances
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a Result of MST
If you suffered sexual assault while in the military, you may be experiencing ongoing psychological trauma including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). More than half of veterans who have endured MST suffer from PTSD(1). This can be extremely disabling and, if not properly treated and addressed, can lead to other psychological issues.
Due to the prevalence of military sexual trauma and its association with PTSD, the VA has been paying more attention to victims of MST and provides benefits to help support them. Even if you were previously denied for benefits for MST, you can have your claim reassessed under the new criteria regarding PTSD.
Getting Service Connection for Military Sexual Trauma
Veterans’ disability claims regarding MST must be developed and presented to the VA properly. Often the evidence needed to prove these claims is from years ago and hard to locate.
Here is a fact that many veterans may not know: MST is not the medical condition or the diagnosis for which you request service connection. MST is the cause, not the condition.
Rather, your claim must show service connection for a disabling mental disorder or psychological trauma, and/or a resulting physical disability (for instance, PTSD, depression, anxiety, or sexual arousal disorder). You will need a diagnosis of that condition from your healthcare provider.
You will also need a nexus statement from your doctor saying that your diagnosed condition is a direct result of military sexual trauma experienced during active military duty, along with all supporting evidence.
Military Sexual Trauma Leaves Invisible Scars
MST can harm a veteran’s mental and physical health, even many years later. Sexual assault is such a private, painful, and overwhelming experience, it can be quite problematic for an MST victim to report the incident when it occurs.
Other veterans may feel the impact of MST but not realize the toll it has takenon them; they simply tolerate the effects. For trauma that happened many years ago, there were no real resources for these veterans. Often these veterans were finally diagnosed with PTSD or other mental disorders. If any of these situations match your experience, do not hesitate to consult with our experienced VA lawyers.
In addition to PTSD, the following are disabling conditions victims of MST often suffer:
- Haunting memories or nightmares, serious sleep disorders
- Depression, feeling “numb” or “flat”
- Difficulty feeling safe
- Substance abuse
- Feeling isolated and disconnected from other people
- Problems with anger, irritability, or other strong emotions
- Bipolar disorder
- Physical health problems including eating disorders, sexual problems, stomach or bowel problems, obesity or weight loss, liver disease, chronic pulmonary disease
Proving Your Impairment Due to MST Is Severe Enough that You Cannot Work
Your MST-based disability claim comes down to two things: (1) MST occurred, and (2) your disabling condition that was the result of the MST has significantly disrupted your ability to work.
Whether you are filing your initial application for veterans’ disability benefits or you need to appeal a denied claim, our accredited VA attorneys are here to help you get the fair benefits that you’ve earned.
VA Appeal Lawyers for Complex MST Claims
VA does not always make the right decisions, and this has been especially true regarding claims involving military sexual trauma. If your VA claim was denied, or you received an unsatisfactory rating for your MST claim, we urge you to consult with our firm.
A low rating does not necessarily imply the VA does not believe a sexual assault happened to you. It may mean that they challenge that the disorder is severe enough to interfere with your ability to function.
We know what it takes to prove the MST actually occurred, what evidence is needed to establish service-connection to your condition, and how to credibly support and document how a disabling condition resulting from MST has taken away your ability to obtain and maintain gainful employment.
(1) Alexandra Besso, Veterans As Victims of Military Sexual Assault: Unequal Access to Ptsd Disability Benefits and Judicial Remedies, 23 Buff. J. Gender, L. & Soc. Pol’y 73, 75 (2015)