Can Military Sexual Trauma Cause PTSD?

Can Military Sexual Trauma Cause PTSD?

One’s time in the military can cause a great deal of trauma. From accidents, events, and injuries, numerous occasions can lead to a disability or illness that a Veteran can receive benefits for through the VA.

To do this, a Veteran must submit a claim by which the VA will assess the rating they will give to the Veteran. This rating determines the benefits and compensation the Veteran receives.

Claiming PTSD through the VA can be a complicated matter. It is different from most other cases submitted through the VA and requires more work to be approved. 

You may be wondering whether military sexual trauma (MST) causes PTSD. This article will go over the symptoms of MST and how you can receive benefits for it.

What Is Military Sexual Trauma?

Military sexual trauma (MST) is a common yet often overlooked occurrence in the military in which one experiences military harassment or assault. It causes great pain for those who go through it and can often be debilitating. 

When one experiences MST, it often affects them physically or mentally, even after years of the event or occurrence. Studies have shown that MST can cause an increase in PTSD, depression, substance abuse, or even suicidal behavior.

Because of the effect that MST has on Veterans, it causes multiple symptoms that the VA covers.

How Does the VA Deal With MST?

Sadly, many cases of MST go unreported due to the sensitive nature of such offenses. Because of this, the VA has focused on dealing with these cases to provide for those who went through such trauma.

Because MST is frequently not reported through official channels, there tends to be a lack of professional information, such as medical or service records, that covers and details the event. Due to this, when the VA conducts interviews, they look for markers that show strong circumstantial evidence of the event.

The newer focus on taking MST situations more seriously has led to increased approval for MST-related conditions. This includes PTSD, which, as an MST-related condition, is around a 60% approval rating. Though the military and VA still have much to improve on in terms of their approaches to MST, they have made strides towards providing appropriate benefits and compensation.

Does the VA Rate MST?

The VA does not have a rating system for MST. This is because it is difficult to rate this kind of trauma. However, a Veteran can still receive benefits if they are a victim of MST. 

MST can cause many other issues in a Veteran’s life, such as PTSD, depression, and various other mental health issues. MST can be used as a link by which you show in your claim that you deserve benefits and compensation.

Does the VA Provide Services for MST?

The answer is yes. To get many of the VA’s services for MST, you do not have to have a rating or any professional evidence that details the event of the trauma. The treatment is free, and the services vary depending on what you need. 

The VA services include:

  • An MST coordinator at every VA medical facility who serves as a contact person for any MST-related issues and will assist you in finding care.
  • Various mental health services, including a psychological evaluation and assessment, medication treatment and evaluation, and group or individual psychotherapy for mental health conditions associated with MST like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse problems, and depression.
  • MST-related outpatient counseling.

To receive these services, you should reach out to your VA healthcare provider if you have one. If not, call your nearest VA medical center and ask to speak to an MST coordinator. From there, you will be directed to treatment referrals and support.


We have already established that MST can cause PTSD. PTSD is recognized by the VA and is given various ratings depending on the severity of the illness.

Because of the severe trauma and pain that MST causes, it can be difficult for Veterans to know where to begin seeking help or services. The first thing that a Veteran should do is seek help from a trusted attorney. At Berry Law, we are VA-certified and have years of experience in helping Veterans get the compensation and benefits they deserve. 

Navigating claims for PTSD can be increasingly difficult compared to other claims. This is due to the nature of PTSD and how it is service-connected. Apart from MST-related PTSD, PTSD must always be service-connected

But with MST, this is different since many of the incidents go unreported. Though the VA requires that claims have to be service-connected, which is usually shown by official documents, a different procedure is done when handling cases of MST.

When the VA looks over cases of MST, there are markers that they look for to signify that someone has experienced MST, which include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Substance abuse
  • Less respect for your purpose in the military
  • Rape crisis center reports
  • Tests for sexually transmitted diseases
  • A request to transfer to another military assignment
  • Unexplained economic and social behavior changes

Though the VA takes some extra effort to go through all of the information they receive, it is important that they do since the trauma that Veterans experience from MST is unexplainable.

Male MST survivors

Over 80% of male MST survivors do not report incidents due to the sensitive nature of the crime. Because of this, many male MST survivors do not seek the help they need and sometimes can be more prone to the markers above than other Veterans. 

In fact, male MST survivors are four times more likely to commit suicide than males with PTSD who are not MST survivors.

Is There a Reason MST Goes Unreported?

Since sexual trauma is a sensitive and sometimes taboo topic, many Veterans do not report the incident and go on as if nothing happened. However, this does not work in their favor since it leads to many problems later on in life. The MST does not have to be recent for it to affect a person’s life. Some go on for years and are still affected by it.

Then you may wonder why so many do not report MST. 

Many in the military are afraid of any charges that they may face under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, such as instances where underage drinking was involved. Another reason is that many are afraid of repercussions or retaliation from fellow service members, which they may think worse than what they have already experienced. Finally, sad as it is, many victims of MST feel ashamed and guilty about what they went through.

However, the worse thing a Veteran can do is not seek help. Since MST can lead to many problems in the Veteran’s life, the best choice is to report it and seek help. Though it is very challenging, it is a brave decision that can lead to help and healing.

How Can You Prove MST Happened If You Didn’t Report It?

Sexual assault of all kinds frequently goes unreported by survivors. Because this fact is widely recognized by the law and the VA, the VA does allow evidence from alternative sources in a Veteran’s service record that can corroborate or indicate the stressful incident occurred.

VA regulations currently list various examples that can be used to corroborate MST as a prerequisite stressor for PTSD claim-related benefits. These examples include:

  • Records from law enforcement authorities, mental health counseling centers, physicians, hospitals, or rape crisis centers
  • Pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases
  • Evidence of behavior changes in the victim following a claimed assault, such as substance abuse, deterioration in performance at work, a request for transfer to a different military duty assignment despite not having other reasons to request this, panic attacks, depression or anxiety, and more.
  • Statements from fellow servicemembers, roommates, family members, or clergy

In addition, Veterans can submit more evidence to corroborate his or her stressor regarding their VA claim for MST. VA regulations prohibit the VA from denying any posttraumatic stress disorder claim based on MST without initially advising the veteran that evidence from sources other than their service records – or evidence of the behavior change – may allow the VA to corroborate the stressor.

Put more simply, the VA has to tell a veteran who suffers from MST-related PTSD that they can gather evidence from the above sources. Just knowing this could inspire a veteran to gather the evidence and apply for benefits, when otherwise they may feel the situation is hopeless.

Evidence Requirements for Proving an MST and PTSD Connection

Despite extending sympathy to MST victims, the VA must have a certain amount of evidence in order to corroborate an incident of MST and PTSD symptoms. 

Veterans must establish a service connection between a sexual assault that occurred during their service and a current diagnosis of PTSD made by a licensed medical professional.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, the VA may request proof like police reports or other proof of sexual assault. Your Veterans’ disability lawyer can help by:

  • Gathering necessary evidence needed to connect PTSD diagnoses with military sexual trauma
  • Working with you to identify potential sources of evidence based on the circumstances of your case
  • Presenting evidence to court or to the VA as effectively as possible

Because large amounts of evidence surrounding MST are circumstantial, gathering as much evidence as you can is vital. The more evidence you can provide, the easier it becomes to corroborate your MST claim and confirm that a sexual assault did happen and that the unwanted sexual contact did cause or aggravate PTSD symptoms.

Remember, even if your initial disability benefits claim is denied, you may still receive benefits after an appeal. If you receive a denial for your benefits claim, speak to knowledgeable attorneys right away. Your lawyers can determine what gaps in evidence, if any, exist and help you shore up your next application so that it has a better chance of succeeding.


Navigating the system of the VA can be extremely challenging, especially if you have never done it before and no one is helping you along the way. With cases involving PTSD and MST, it is best to have a committed team of experienced people assisting Veterans in getting the benefits they need.

MST is a serious trauma that affects the lives of many Veterans. Sadly, many never sought the help or services that they needed. In knowing how MST is related to other VA-approved service-connected disabilities or illnesses, you will be able to receive compensation for MST.

For more information or any questions that you may have regarding the VA, please visit our website.


Military Sexual Trauma Fact Sheet | Veterans Affairs 

Military sexual trauma as a determinant in the development of mental and physical illness in male and female Veterans | NCBI 

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) | Veterans Affairs

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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