Sexual assaults can happen to anyone at any time in any place. Sadly, this includes the US military. Many victims are hesitant to report sexual assault due to fear or embarrassment; however, in recent years sexual assault in the military has been exposed as a major issue. While it is still estimated that many cases of sexual assault in the military go vastly unreported, the Department of Veterans Affairs has started to offer disability benefits for sexual trauma.
The VA’s official term for these events is “military sexual trauma” (MST). The VA defines MST as sexual assault or repetitive, threatening sexual harassment. Circumstances that typically qualify as sexual assault are:
- Physical assault
- Domestic Battering
In order to qualify for MST benefits you must be able to prove the following;
- You had an incident of military sexual trauma while on active duty
- You are currently diagnosed with a mental or physical disability
- Your disabilities were caused by, or were worsened by, the military sexual trauma you suffered while in the service
Unfortunately, simply being the victim of a sexual assault will not qualify you for disability benefits. Disabilities may include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and substance abuse.
Thankfully, the VA does not require your service medical records to have any documentation of the harassment or assault. However, the VA does require some sort of proof the attack happened, and they accept the following form of proof;
- Police records
- Records from a rape crisis center
- Pregnancy tests
- Tests for sexually transmitted diseases
- Statements from your friends in service, family members, counselors, or clergy
- Personal journals you kept before and after the time of the trauma
In some cases you may need to provide some sort of proof that the MST affected your personality or behavior. The VA will accept the following as proof of behavioral changes.
- Evidence of a drug or alcohol problem
- Documentation that you requested a transfer
- Marital or sexual difficulties
- Incidents of depression or anxiety for which no other cause has been identified
- Noticeable changes in job performance
- Unexplainable changes in your social or economic behavior
If you have been dealing with a disability as a result of MST there is help available. Contact the office of Attorney Jan Dils for a free case evaluation.