Female veteran talks about her experience with military sexual trauma to a therapist

Military Sexual Trauma Lawyers

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Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma can be entitled to VA disability benefits for the physical and mental injuries they have suffered.

Summary

  • Military Sexual Trauma (MST) can be detrimental to the physical and psychological health of veterans, but Military Sexual Trauma lawyers can offer support in seeking VA disability benefits.
  • MST encompasses a wide range of sexual misconduct, including verbal harassment, rape, and coercion, with potential long-term effects on survivors.
  • Certain demographics of veterans carry a greater risk of suffering sexual assault or harassment during their service.
  • Veterans can file VA disability claims for MST-related health conditions, such as depression and eating disorders.

While serving in the military, veterans faced a number of threats while fulfilling their duties. From exposure to toxins to combat situations to handling heavy machinery, there are undeniable risks to service members’ mental and physical health.

Unfortunately, one of the dangers they face includes Military Sexual Trauma (MST) perpetrated by fellow service members. Veterans who are grappling with the physical and psychological ramifications of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) have options.

Our team of Military Sexual Trauma lawyers at VetLaw is here to help ease the burden of pursuing a VA disability benefits claim for health conditions connected to MST. Reach out to our capable team at (855) 500-4672 or fill out a contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Why Veterans Choose VetLaw to Advocate For Their Needs

Convincing yourself to go through the VA disability claims process again after receiving a denial can be a challenge, and many survivors of Military Sexual Trauma are reluctant to do so. Our team at VetLaw has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated our expertise in championing the appeals of survivors to help them secure VA disability benefits.

Not only do we work with vets, but VetLaw was also founded by Marine Corps veteran Brendan Garcia. We understand the stigma that survivors can face in the military and how to be resourceful when gathering evidence of sexual assault.

Our Military Sexual Trauma attorneys can also explain the various options available to veterans after the VA denies their disability claim. These qualities make us the clear choice for survivors seeking VA disability benefits.

Take a Look at Our Outstanding Client Reviews and Case Results

When a veteran asks our team for help with their VA disability claim, we give them our best every time. We are grateful to have an extensive roster of former clients who provide reviews of their experience with VetLaw, including the following.

“They were very professional and made sure that the VA got even my disability rate and everything right in order for me to have a higher rating along with complete medical care going forward. It’s been a process but with VetLaw it made it a bunch easier. Thank you for all you did.”

“Brendan Garcia’s firm does great work. They are very knowledgeable about the VA. I am glad I found them. They get results. Thanks to all who helped me.”

What Does the VA Say Qualifies as Military Sexual Trauma?

Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is a term the VA uses that “refers to sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service”. Assault implies that there was an act of physical aggression, whereas harassment is usually unwanted verbal commentary or treatment, and it is often ongoing.

Both survivors and perpetrators of Military Sexual Trauma can be of any rank, gender, sexual orientation, economic and educational background, or age. MST can stem from an isolated event or it can develop as a result of repeated non-consensual conduct.

According to the 2022 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, 8,942 reports were filed across the various branches. Higher rates of reporting in recent years have led to scrutiny over how MST claims are handled. There is also debate over the implications of this increase.

Many people are understandably concerned about the rise in incidents, but others see the shift as a sign that survivors are more comfortable coming forward and have greater faith that the military can offer a just resolution.

Most Common Sources of Sexual Trauma in the Military

For decades, the military has grappled with a toxic culture surrounding sexual misconduct. Female service members have historically been greater targets, which has likely contributed to suicide rates among female veterans. However, MST existed in the military prior to 1948 when women were approved to hold permanent positions. 

Too often, assault and harassment were excused as hazing or teasing, and even justified based on the survivor’s behavior, clothes, or appearance. While there have been shifts in the attitude towards non-consensual sexual conduct, many of the same forms of harassment still exist, along with a few new ones. 

Sources of MST include:

  • Manipulating or coercing someone to perform a sex act
  • Groping or fondling another person
  • Rape and attempted rape, including using foreign objects
  • Sending inappropriate or graphic images, videos, or messages
  • Soliciting explicit pictures or videos
  • Threatening to release suggestive images or videos
  • Exposing genitals to another person
  • Making suggestive or vulgar comments to or about another person 

Military Sexual Trauma lawyers can help you collect evidence of the assault or pattern of inappropriate behavior to support your VA disability claim.

What Disabilities Are Linked to Military Sexual Trauma?

Physical and psychological injuries that have significant or prolonged consequences for a veteran can qualify as disabilities with the VA. In addition to VA disability claims for broken bones, concussions, internal damage such as anal or vagina tearing, and other injuries incurred during the assault, vets may consider filing claims for:

After experiencing MST, veterans may struggle with substance abuse, often as a way to self-medicate for a mental health issue. Over time, this may lead to serious health issues, including addiction, organ damage, and the risk of overdose. Seeking treatment for mental and physical conditions related to MST can help prevent this spiral.

Like with standard disability claims, MST-related disabilities can reference new injuries that the veteran sustained while serving, as well as pre-existing injuries and illnesses that were exacerbated by their service.  

Who is at the Highest Risk for Experiencing Military Sexual Trauma?

Sexual predators tend to target someone they perceive as vulnerable. This pattern persists across societies, institutions, and time, and the military is no exception. Vulnerability can take different forms, like someone having a lower rank, being physically weaker, or trying to hide their sexual orientation.

Anyone can be a target of sexual violence, although the following groups may be at a greater risk of being sexually assaulted in the military. Service members who fall under one or more of these categories are statistically more likely to experience non-consensual sexual contact or harassment: 

  • Women; women serving in the Marines are at a higher risk, and women in the Air Force are at a lower risk
  • Younger and lower-paid service members
  • Lower ranking and enlisted personnel
  • LGBTQ+ service members

According to RAND, a non-profit research organization, statistics on military sexual assault show that the majority of sexual assaults take place on ships or military installations.

Nearly all female survivors were attacked by men, while only half of male survivors were assaulted by other men. Military Sexual Trauma lawyers can help survivors overcome obstacles to proving their experience.

What Veterans Can Do After Surviving Sexual Assault in the Military

If you are still in the military and experience MST, seek treatment for your injuries and consider doing a rape kit. You can also request a drug screening and a BAC test. Veterans do not have to meet the standard VA service requirements to access Military Sexual Trauma care for injuries related to their assault. 

For other service-related disabilities not connected to their MST, a veteran can pursue a VA disability claim to secure benefits. If you feel comfortable, report the incident to your superiors and keep a record of any evidence you have. These actions put you in the strongest position possible to file an MST disability claim later. 

Even if you chose not to report your MST when it happened, you may still be able to secure VA disability benefits. A veterans disability claims lawyer can help you gather the evidence you will need to secure benefits for your mental or physical condition.

If you have already attempted to file a claim and the VA denied it, they can offer guidance on how to handle the VA appeals process.

Why VetLaw’s Veterans Disability Claims Attorneys Are the Best Choice to Handle Your Military Sexual Trauma Claim 

At VetLaw, we want you to know that you don’t have to accept that you will have to deal with the effects of Military Sexual Trauma without support as your reality. Instead, our team can provide you with the advice, support, and resources you need to access VA disability benefits.

Once we take your case, we are fully committed to helping you pursue your MST claim. For many survivors of MST, disability benefits are financially critical and emotionally validating.

Our team of Military Sexual Trauma lawyers can handle your MST claim with the discretion and diligence required to secure benefits. We are proud to represent survivors and we won’t hesitate to stand up for their rights.

Contact the Military Sexual Trauma Lawyers of VetLaw to Secure the Support You Deserve

There has been considerable progress in preventing sexual misconduct, supporting survivors, and how MST claims are handled, although MST remains a matter of concern. At VetLaw, our focus is on fighting for veterans who continue to suffer from the fallout of Military Sexual Trauma. 

Our VA-accredited veterans disability appeals attorneys can assist you with filing a claim for benefits. Get in touch with our team at (855) 500-4672 or fill out a contact form to schedule a free consultation. After that, we’ll take the lead in getting you the VA benefits you deserve for your MST-related disability.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I file an appeal if the VA denied my disability claim for Military Sexual Trauma?

Absolutely. The VA doesn’t limit how many appeals you can make, so it’s to your benefit to continue pursuing a claim. In particular, veterans who filed a disability claim before February 2019 related to Military Sexual Trauma should appeal an MST claim denial.

Since then, the VA has re-educated and designated a specific group of staff to examine MST disability claims. 

I received a Dishonorable discharge after experiencing MST, am I still eligible for VA disability benefits?

Under normal circumstances, a Dishonorable discharge would disqualify you from receiving VA disability benefits for a service-related injury or illness. However, if you were discharged because of issues related to your Military Sexual Trauma, you may have a solid case for appealing your character of discharge to access VA disability benefits. 

Keep in mind that survivors can always access VA care for MST injuries, even if they are barred from receiving VA benefits for other service-related disabilities. Military Sexual Trauma lawyers can provide further insight into your eligibility based on the specifics of your case.

What types of evidence can I use to prove a PTSD claim related to MST?

Survivors may fear personal and professional retaliation after experiencing assault or harassment. Others simply want to keep their trauma private. Additionally, in MST cases where the perpetrator used drugs or alcohol to coerce consent, it can be even more difficult to compile a cohesive record of events, even when the survivor does report the incident.

This can make it harder to show the VA that your PTSD disability is connected to MST from your time in the military. However, the VA is cognizant of the complications of MST claims. It accepts several kinds of evidence of PTSD caused by MST. Examples include:

  • Service Treatment Records (STR) or Military Personnel Records (MPR)
  • Documents from an investigation of the incident
  • Statements from co-workers, counselors, religious advisors, family members, and other people who knew about the MST
  • Police reports and files from rape crisis hotlines
  • Medical evidence, including pregnancy tests or STD test results
  • Evidence of behavioral changes, including substance abuse, relationship problems, and poor job performance