Military Sexual Trauma – MST

VA defines MST as “psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.” And VA defines sexual harassment as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), some Veterans may have experienced military sexual trauma (MST) while serving in the military. These experiences affect Veterans’ mental and physical health, even many years later. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, other mood disorders, and substance use disorders are associated with MST. 

For general information about MST, visit VA’s website.

MST Reporting and Time Limits

Military sexual assaults often are not reported, or they go unreported for years. Because of that, many Veterans incorrectly believe they may not qualify for VA benefits for MST, so they don’t file VA disability compensation claims or seek VA care. 

There is no time limit for a Veteran to file a claim for a condition associated with MST, even years or decades later. Please note that VA does not grant compensation to Veterans for traumatic events. Instead, VA grants benefits for physical and mental health conditions that result from MST. In addition, there is now free VA healthcare available for MST-related conditions.

MST Evidence

Veterans filing a disability claim for a condition associated with MST often face a tough fight with VA because the evidence needed to win may be many years old, difficult to find, or sometimes nonexistent. In March 2016, VA improved evidentiary requirements associated with MST. The types of evidence VA may consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Records from law enforcement authorities, rape crisis centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals, or physicians
  • Pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases
  • Statements from family members, roommates, fellow service members, clergy members, or counselors
  • Requests for transfer to another military duty assignment
  • Deterioration in work performance
  • Substance abuse
  • Episodes of depression, panic attacks, or anxiety without an identifiable cause
  • Unexplained economic or social behavioral changes
  • Relationship issues, such as divorce
  • Sexual dysfunction

Free MST Treatment Available

Due to the increased awareness and advocacy by Veterans, VA now provides expanded and free medical care for MST survivors. That means that even while your VA claim is pending, you may be able to receive free care from VA for a condition associated with MST. 

According to VA, Veterans who experienced MST have access to a wide range of services to assist them in their recovery. MST-related treatment is available at all VA medical facilities, and all treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to experiences of MST is provided free of charge. Veterans may be eligible for free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA services, and service connection (VA disability compensation) is not required.

No documentation of MST experiences is required to obtain free VA care. In addition, every VA healthcare system has an MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues at the facility and can help Veterans access relevant VA services and programs.  

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Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. Using this information, understand that there is no attorney-client relationship created by reading or using the information on this website.​