Military Sexual Trauma Claims
September 09, 2021
As unfortunate as it is, many service members will experience some form of sexual assault, harassment, or other trauma during their military service. These experiences have profound impacts on survivors, but some relief could come in the form of compensation and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Though many veterans do not know they have experienced a Military Sexual Trauma (MST), so what is it? MST can be:
- Sexual encounters that are forced or coerced or perpetrated while someone is unwilling or unable to give consent.
- Unwanted physical contact that makes you uncomfortable.
- Repeated sexual advances.
- Offers of something in exchange for sexual favors.
- Inappropriate sexual jokes or lewd remarks.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 female veterans and 1 in 100 male veterans in the VA Healthcare system report experiencing a MST. However, on average, only 15% of military MST survivors report their assaults. Sadly, the number of unreported cases tells us that MST is common in the military. But also, those survivors are not alone in their experiences.
Impact of Trauma on Survivors
Survivors of MST may go on to experience negative physical and mental health conditions because of the event(s). Listed below are common conditions experienced due to MST:
- Survivors often develop Anxiety, Depression, and/or PTSD.
- May isolate themselves to avoid encountering perpetrator, or due to fear of another assault.
- May begin to think about or attempt suicide or self-harm.
- May develop eating disorders.
- May develop a substance abuse problem.
- Many survivors express a deep sense of betrayal by their fellow service members and chain of command.
- They may feel demoralized or disillusioned over the loss of their once idealistic vision of military service.
Obtaining Disability Benefits
Survivors that are seeking VA disability benefits for their experiences do not have to provide medical or legal proof from their service records to prove an MST claim. In 2013, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision in the case of AZ v. Shinseki. The court specifically held that because of the difficulties that service members have in reporting a MST, the VA cannot require the veteran to provide medical records or police reports from their service records to prove the incident.
So, what evidence can be used instead?
- Evidence of behavior/personality changes.
- Mental health/mood changes.
- Requests to transfer.
- Evidence of substance abuse after the incident.
- Buddy statements.
- Veteran’s lay statements.
- Later medical or mental health treatment records discussing the incident.
Legal Help For Veterans, PLLC
As awareness of military sexual trauma increases, so too does acceptance of benefit claims by VA. If you are a veteran MST survivor, our team of compassionate legal professionals are here to help you. Please call us at (800) 693-4800 or fill out a Free Claim Evaluation form on our website.