Sexual trauma, broadly referred to as unwanted sexual contact, is sadly all too prevalent in many occupations and environments. Among our military heroes, the sad reality is that many will face unsolicited sexual contact or advances during their tenure serving our country. Unfortunately, a large percentage of VA claims for military sexual trauma go denied.
If you or a Veteran you love faced military sexual trauma (MST), you deserve access to the resources and support you need. Additionally, knowing how MST affects your VA disability benefits can ensure your family’s ongoing well-being and protect your rights.
The Veterans law attorneys at Berry Law are proud to act as Veterans serving Veterans, supporting former service members nationwide, fighting for the security and welfare of our nation’s bravest, and delivering on our promise to help you get the most out of your disability benefits.
Military sexual trauma refers to the psychological trauma and aftereffects of a broad range of unwarranted conduct during military service. This may include everything from unsolicited verbal remarks of a sexual nature, unwanted or inappropriate physical contact to more aggressive forms of sexual assault.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines military sexual trauma as:
Regardless of the action, all non-consensual activity can profoundly affect a Veteran, causing psychological trauma, anxiety, negative self-image, and distress.
No one Veteran will have the same experience as another, and not everyone will define their experiences or what resulted from them the same way. However, the VA acknowledges that this problem is widespread and has devoted considerable attention to creating programs and benefits tailored to the needs of all Veterans, including those who reported incidents of sexual trauma while on active duty.
While some Veterans might interchangeably speak of MST and PTSD, MST is neither a diagnosis nor a disability.
Not every Veteran who experiences military sexual trauma will receive a diagnosis of PTSD or another mental disorder or condition. However, some studies suggest that the tendency to develop post-traumatic stress disorder increases in those who experienced some form of MST.
Other consequences linked to traumatic experiences include mood and substance abuse disorders. However, these conditions are not synonymous with sexual trauma among service members.
Due to the topic’s sensitive nature, we lack accurate statistics for Veterans who experienced some form of MST. However, a recent study shows that an estimated 15.7 percent of military personnel experienced sexual trauma, including harassment and assault, while serving our nation. When surveyed for only assault, the figure decreases slightly to 13.9 percent. Reporting that assesses only harassment indicates that upwards of 31.2 percent of Veterans have experienced some form of MST.
As with other symptoms related to a traumatic experience or event, the effects can vary significantly.
However, in general, the VA identifies some consequences of military sexual trauma as:
These symptoms can often overlap with other conditions, both physical and mental.
Seek an evaluation from your VA healthcare provider to determine the underlying causes of your symptoms to make them more manageable and get the full VA disability benefits you deserve.
As MST is not a disability in itself, no specific disability rating applies to it. However, sexual trauma may have brought on or aggravated other issues that can result in disability claims, such as PTSD or a chronic health condition.
In addition, if you received a denial for a claim related to MST before August 2018, the VA issued a statement encouraging those Veterans to reapply. The best Lincoln VA disability benefits lawyer can navigate this process, gather evidence, submit an appeal, and determine which channels to direct your claim through.
If you have a physical or mental condition that MST caused or aggravated, you may file a disability compensation claim. Your VA disability rating will depend on which condition you apply under.
The VA will calculate your disability rating using its current disability rating guidelines.
As with all VA ratings, your disability will range from 0 to 100 percent based on its interference with your life.
Furthermore, depending on your needs, your total benefits may include:
Some services, such as healthcare and mental health treatment, do not require a VA rating.
However, for the VA to approve your claim for monthly disability compensation, you will need to provide evidence supporting and documenting your disability claim, including:
Several types of evidence can support a VA disability claim in connection with military sexual trauma. The most common evidence used are records documenting the incident, including medical or personnel records from your time of service or investigative reports.
However, many Veterans chose not to report sexual abuse when it happened, so those documents may not exist.
The VA states that alternative evidence may include:
Additionally, while not providing direct evidence of military sexual trauma, the corroboration of changes in your mood, work performance, substance abuse, or other unexplained behavior may strengthen your claim.
At Berry Law, we understand the challenges Veterans face when they must submit their VA disability claims and advocate for themselves. That’s why we dedicated ourselves to championing Veterans’ rights for over 50 years. Our attorneys are committed to helping you reap the most of the VA disability benefits you earned while serving our country.
Suppose you require legal assistance submitting a claim, appealing a denial, or filing to increase your VA disability rating. In that case, you can count on the Veterans serving Veterans at Berry Law to stand by your side every step of the way.
If you or a Veteran you love has a legal matter to discuss, contact us today for more information and to speak to an attorney at no cost.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.