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.
VA defines MST as “psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, 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 VA, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men experienced MST. Although rates of MST are higher among women, because there are many more men than women in the military, there are actually significant numbers of both women and men who experienced MST.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, other mood disorders, and substance use disorders are associated with MST. For general information more about MST, visit VA’s web site.
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, and then they don’t file VA disability compensation claims or seek VA care.
In fact, 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 the traumatic event(s). Rather, VA grants benefits for physical and mental health conditions that result from MST. In addition, there is now free VA care available for MST-related conditions.
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 and difficult to find. In March 2016, VA improved evidentiary requirements associated with MST. The types of evidence VA may consider include, but are not limited to:
In April of 2017, legislation remains pending in Congress to further expand benefits for Veterans with conditions associated with MST.
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. To learn more, visit VA’s web site.
Understanding VA’s complex rules for MST and then submitting all of the paperwork in a timely manner can be a challenge, especially when there is a mental health condition and associated psychological trauma.
Bergmann & Moore has helped hundreds of Veterans win their MST because our staff knows the VA system well and are trained to listen and care.
Bergmann & Moore remains dedicated to helping Veterans obtain benefits from VA. If you filed a claim for a condition associated with MST that was denied by VA, then Bergmann & Moore may be able to assist you with this type of complex claim appeal. Please contact Bergmann & Moore for a FREE consultation.
Agent Orange Exposure
One specific disease, Glioblastoma Multiforme, is a type of malignant brain tumor, often found in veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during service. However, VA has not yet acknowledged that these tumors are due to Agent Orange exposure and therefore they are not on VA’s presumptive list. Sadly, when a veteran passes away from a non-presumptive condition such as Glioblastoma, their surviving spouse is often unable to obtain benefits on their own.
Burn Pit Exposure
Bergmann & Moore recognizes that many veterans from the Gulf War era, Operating Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation New Dawn (OND), and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) may have been exposed to hazardous materials that were burned as a form of waste management.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) provides Veterans with five options on what to do when you receive a Board denial. In our experience there is only ONE reasonable option—appeal the BVA decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals to Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Dependency and Indemnity Claims
In the event a veteran passes away, their surviving family members may be entitled to benefits from the VA. Most commonly, this would be the Veteran’s surviving spouse. In order to qualify for DIC benefits, the surviving spouse must show that the Veteran died from a condition or illness related to the veteran’s military service. In some cases, veterans may have already been service connected for the condition that caused their death. In other cases, the surviving spouse is required to prove that the cause of death, if not already service-connected, was due to the veteran’s service.
Even veterans who aren’t rated 100-percent disabled may be eligible to be paid at the 100-percent monetary rate. VA awards individual unemployability, often referred to as total disability for individual unemployability (TDIU), when a veteran’s service connected conditions prohibit him or her from maintaining gainful employment. This benefit is separate from Social Security Disability Income.
Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual assaults occur with both men and women and often go unreported. Many Veterans believe they do not qualify for Veterans’ benefits for military sexual trauma if they did not report the assault when it happened, but that is not true. There is no time limit for a Veteran to file a claim for a military sexual trauma, even if it is decades later.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also referred to as posttraumatic stress or posttraumatic stress syndrome, is caused by experiencing a traumatic event. Even though the event has passed, many people continue to experience symptoms for months or even years afterward.
Once VA grants service connection for a disability, they then assign a rating based on the severity of the condition. The rating assigned correlates with a monetary amount to be paid monthly. In most cases, the veteran is compensated retroactively back to the effective date of the claim. This means that VA must pay the monthly amount for the disability for each month the claim was open, usually awarded in a lump sum, in addition to the monthly benefits going forward.
Veterans who were injured while in the military, or who aggravated those injuries while in the military, may be eligible for disability compensation. In some cases, compensation claims injuries are immediately obvious, such as when a service member is physically injured while on active duty. Other times, veterans don’t experience symptoms until many years after service, such as in the form of a mental health condition or cancer due to exposure of hazardous materials like Agent Orange, Burn Pits, or Asbestos.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
If a veteran sustains a head injury or full body injury during their military service, there may be longstanding effects known as residuals of a traumatic brain injury. Many veterans are unaware that they’ve even sustained a TBI because they didn’t lose consciousness during the event. Anything from a mild concussion to being thrown in an explosion may constitute a TBI.