Sexual assault and sexual harassment, in the military, is referred to as military sexual trauma (MST). While women are more likely to experience MST, it happens to men too, and both men and women can receive disability benefits for conditions caused by MST, including mental health conditions and physical conditions. The VA recognizes that it is very common for sexual trauma to be absent from a veteran’s service records, and allows you to use other sources of evidence to show that the event occurred and how it has affected you.
MST and PTSD
MST is not a condition or disability, it is an event. To receive disability compensation for MST, you must have a compensable health condition that was caused by the MST. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common condition associated with MST. MST/PTSD falls under PTSD based on in-service personal trauma. The VA’s definition of personal trauma is, “stressor events involving harm perpetrated by a person who is not considered part of an enemy force.”
MST commonly goes unreported for a variety of reasons. Evidence of MST does not have to come from your service record, or can be something in your record other than a report of the incident that indicates that MST occurred. Examples of evidence of the MST can include:
- Pregnancy test
- Test for sexually transmitted disease
- Records from mental health counseling center, rape crisis center, hospital or doctor
- Records from law enforcement
- Transfer request
- Deterioration in performance
- Relationship/marital problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Statements from other servicemembers, clergy, counselors, roommates, and family
To learn more about MST and disability benefits, please contact an experienced VA disability lawyer right away.