Female military veteran speaking with a therapist after surviving a sexual assault

New Letter Directs VA to Do More for Female Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma

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Despite the variety of resources the VA provides for sexual assault survivors, Congress recently critiqued the VA’s lack of effort to make veterans aware of these options.


  • Senators representing both parties sent a letter to the VA regarding services for female Military Sexual Trauma survivors, who are at a higher risk of experiencing unwanted sexual contact.
  • The members of the Senate who wrote the letter believe the VA isn’t doing enough to make medical care, mental health counseling, and other programs easily accessible to women veterans.
  • The letter to the VA draws a contrast between the high rates of sexual trauma among female veterans and the low rates of usage of resources for survivors.
  • The Senators requested the VA make changes to how it approaches care for female Military Sexual Trauma survivors, including offering more telehealth appointments and requiring trauma-informed training for providers.

A group of Senators has expressed concern that female Military Sexual Trauma survivors are not taking advantage of VA support services. The coalition blames a lack of advertising, among other issues, for the disconnect between the range of care options available and the sexual assault survivors who need them.

Given the number of veterans who experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) while serving in the armed forces, this issue has become a priority. In addition to accessing VA mental health support and medical care, MST survivors can be eligible for VA disability benefits.

At VetLaw, our respected team of Military Sexual Trauma lawyers has been a trusted resource among survivors because we understand the complicating factors that arise in MST disability claims and how to secure benefits despite these hurdles. Call us at (855) 670-0614 or complete our contact form today to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Bipartisan Coalition Joins Forces to Address VA’s Treatment of Female Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Survivors  

Two long-time United States Senators co-authored a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough regarding the obstacles women in the military and female veterans face in the aftermath of Military Sexual Trauma.

Both Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Angus King (I-ME), the authors of the letter, serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. A third of the Senate backed this letter and signatories included members of both parties.

Publicly sending a Cabinet Secretary a critical letter is a political tactic members of Congress use to reprimand the executive branch for failing to carry out the legislative branch’s agenda. Additionally, politicians use it to stake or highlight their policy position and raise awareness about issues.

The Senators note that the VA has the infrastructure to address military sexual assault survivors’ needs so they can cope with the lasting effects of MST. However, many service members, particularly women, are not receiving the support they are entitled to. The letter cites several statistics that highlight the scope and importance of the issue.

Senators Leverage Data on Sexual Misconduct to Urge VA to Take Action

Women are the minority in the military, but they constitute the majority of survivors of sexual assault in the military. It is well-known that female service members are subject to non-consensual sexual contact and commentary at an alarming rate, even when accounting for under-reporting. 

The Senators stress this by referencing that approximately a third of female veterans suffered from at least one form of Military Sexual Trauma. Of those, only half sought support from the VA.

Presumably, this is because they were unaware of the services available to MST survivors or because they were deterred by how sexual assault survivors are treated by the VA.

In their letter to the VA, the legislators also discuss how the consequences of experiencing sexual assault in the military can be devastating for women. Specifically, they raise concerns about how Military Sexual Trauma contributes to suicide rates among female veterans.

According to researchers, surviving MST increases their likelihood of contemplating suicide by 65%. The Senators point out that these problems will only worsen as the percentage of women in the military continues to increase.

To emphasize this concern, they quote an estimate that suggests within 20 years, nearly 20% of veterans will be women. Senators Murray and King conclude the letter with a list of reforms that could help female Military Sexual Trauma survivors.

Letter Suggests Ways the VA Can Improve Care for Female Military Sexual Trauma Survivors

Over the last several years, the VA has invested in modernizing its system for supporting sexual assault survivors and dealing with MST claims. This includes creating a team that is trained on how to handle MST claims for disability benefits. However, there is still considerable room for progress, according to the letter.

The Senators made several recommendations to help encourage female MST survivors to access VA resources. Their letter proposes that the VA should take the following actions to better serve women veterans who experienced Military Sexual Trauma.

  • Ensure veterans, especially female MST survivors, know they can access VA healthcare for their MST-related conditions even if they were Dishonorably discharged 
  • Train VA healthcare providers to recognize and accommodate the unique needs of women who survived sexual assault in the military
  • Establish female-only waiting rooms in VA healthcare centers
  • Increase Vet Center resources for women
  • Continue to develop telehealth options to make care more accessible for female Military Sexual Trauma survivors 

Speak With VetLaw About Your Options For Filing a Military Sexual Trauma Claim

Trying to pursue a VA disability benefits claim for a health issue related to Military Sexual Trauma can render a veteran disillusioned with the claims system. VetLaw is here to simplify the VA appeals process by helping you build a credible veterans disability claim. We are unmatched in terms of knowledge and dedication to veterans.

If you are a veteran who survived Military Sexual Trauma, it’s likely that you are dealing with the costs of that experience. Vet Law has considerable expertise in helping both male and female Military Sexual Trauma survivors secure VA disability benefits.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our veterans disability claims lawyers, call (855) 670-0614 or complete our contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common characteristics of female Military Sexual Trauma survivors?

A review of DoD data on MST from 2018 suggests that women who are targets of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military may share attributes that increase their risk of being harmed.

Female service members who are younger, enlisted, belong to the LGBTQ+ community, and have experienced sexual assault in the past may be more likely to experience MST.

Can I still file a Military Sexual Trauma claim for VA disability benefits if I didn’t report the incident when it first happened?

Yes, you still have the option of filing an MST claim. If you didn’t report the incident, the VA does not automatically disqualify you from seeking disability benefits.

Many survivors are concerned about facing backlash from superiors and peers if they report sexual harassment or sexual assault. Others don’t make an official report because they want to forget that it happened. 

While documentation is helpful, an official report isn’t necessarily needed to establish a service connection for your Military Sexual Trauma claim. Your veterans disability appeals attorney can help you obtain other forms of evidence to back up your claim.

Does the VA consider sexual harassment to be Military Sexual Trauma?

Experiencing sexual harassment is a form of Military Sexual Trauma. To be eligible for disability benefits, you would need to prove you have an MST-related medical condition.

Typically, sexual harassment does not involve the perpetrator physically injuring their target. However, this behavior can still have negative consequences for the target’s mental and physical health.

For example, consider a situation where a service member was repeatedly threatening to release explicit photos of another service member. The target of the sexual harassment may develop anxiety or depression, both of which can lead to physical injuries from self-harm, substance abuse, or even an eating disorder