Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
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Everyone responds to trauma in their own way. When a serviceman or woman experiences military sexual trauma (also known as MST), they may find themselves initially numb to the incident. The psychological trauma stemming from the stressful event can take years to manifest. For others, the weight of the trauma can be felt immediately after MST occurs. Rape, sexual assault and repeated sexual harassment all fall under the umbrella of MST.
Pain stemming from the MST can grow into dangerous psychological conditions that threaten the health and well-being of the victim. Thankfully, veterans have some recourse for their pain and suffering. Veterans who develop conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after MST may be eligible for disability.
MST Disability for Veterans
Veterans who experienced MST cannot receive disability benefits directly because of what they endured. In order to become eligible, the serviceman or woman must prove that they developed a condition like depression, anxiety or PTSD after MST occurred. Such reactions are all too common among veterans who lacked both the recognition and the resources to deal with MST.
Other conditions related to MST include anxiety disorders, substance abuse, depression and panic attacks. These conditions may stem from or have worsened because of the sexual trauma experienced while in the military.
To support the claim for their condition, veterans will need some sort of documentation relating to it. Medical records, counseling reports and other documentation from healthcare professionals can be used as evidence. Even journals, diaries or simply a change in behavior (i.e. performance reviews) can be valuable forms of evidence for veterans filing for disability. If you did not report the incident nor have any of the above, it doesn’t mean you can’t prove your claim. You may need the expertise of an attorney to assist you with the process.
Reapplying for MST Claims
Increasing societal awareness about the impact of MST has led to many changes for veterans seeking help. In December 2011, VA personnel began receiving training on how to process MST-related disability claims. Veterans who submitted MST-related claims before that time and were denied may opt to reapply. Reevaluations may be requested at your local VA regional office. We would recommend working with a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to file your claim.
Special Rules for Adjudicating PTSD Claims Based Upon MST
When a veteran files a PTSD claim, they are usually required to submit their service records or other form of documentation of the alleged incident. PTSD stemming from military sexual trauma, however, is not often included in a veteran’s service record. Instead, veterans may opt to submit other forms of proof that the stressful incident occurred. Evidence may include:
● Police reports
● Documentation from rape crisis centers
● Mental health counseling records
● Reports from hospitals or clinics
● Pregnancy tests
● Tests for sexually transmitted diseases
● Statements from family members, roommates, members of the clergy or other service members
Evidence of changes in behavior after an alleged assault may also serve as proof. Transfer requests, depression, anxiety and substance abuse all qualify as credible evidence of a stressful incident. Deterioration in quality of work and unexplained economic or social changes may also qualify.
The weight of MST can take a toll on even the most resilient of veterans. A lawyer knowledgeable about MST in the military can be their best advocate. Veteran’s Law Group helps those who experienced MST seek the maximum possible compensation for their disability claims. Compassionate representation is available for anyone seeking help after enduring MST in the military. If you or someone you love has experienced sexual trauma while serving, reach out today and begin down the path towards justice.