It seems that one sees enough about sexual assault within the United States Armed Forces in the media to know that it is a pervasive problem that has affected every branch of the military, and that the military has been slow to deal with it.
But perpetrators are now being brought to justice, and in addition to this, victims may be entitled to Military Sexual Trauma (MST) benefits.
MST benefits are intended to compensate active service victims who have been sexually assaulted while on base, in combat, or at training (either active or inactive).
The victim must have suffered psychological trauma as a result of physical assault, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment. MST benefits are available to veterans regardless of gender, rank, or assignment. What else should veterans know about applying for these benefits?
1. File Your Claim Quickly
Make sure that your claim form is filled out completely, but the actual claim application can be filed before evidence and documentation are submitted. Waiting until all evidence and documentation is gathered before sending in the application form can actually lower your benefits, as the clock starts when the application form is received.
2. Remember That Military Sexual Trauma Isn’t A Disorder…
…it’s the cause of the disorder for which you’re applying for benefits. Your application will be rejected if you don’t specify a specific disorder such as PTSD, etc.
3. Include Doctor’s Verification (Nexus) Letter With Documentation
This letter should contain statements that verify that the doctor feels that PTSD occurred as a direct result of military sexual trauma suffered on such and such a date.
4. Request Retention Of Restricted Report Documentation
This prohibits the military from destroying or sanitizing reports or collected evidence for up to fifty years.
Victims must verify that the assault occurred, that it caused the condition that benefits are being applied for, and that the condition still exists. Acceptable evidence includes service records, documentation of behavior, disciplinary actions such as being reported AWOL, police reports, and medical records.
Because of military histories of destroying or sanitizing assault reports, the VA will accept VA Form 21-0781A (Alternate Assault Form) in such cases. Remember that in order to investigate all non-military medical treatment and police reports, the VA will need victims to submit VA Form 21-4142.
And victims are advised to report only one assault at a time (although to report more is certainly allowed), as to report multiple ones can slow down the entire application process.