Every 107 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted. This means there are 293,000 people sexually assaulted every year. The most heartbreaking statistic is that 68% of sexual assaults are never reported.
Because of the violent and traumatic nature of sexual assaults, many victims have long lasting effects that can be debilitating. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), flashbacks, and depression can all result from a sexual assault.
Sexual assaults can happen to anyone at any time in any place. Sadly, this includes the US military. In 2014, 20,300 service members experienced some form of sexual assault.
Many victims have been hesitant to report sexual assault because 90% of assaults were committed by a higher ranking officer, but this is beginning to change.
What was once a taboo subject that no one wanted to talk about is now slowly coming into the spotlight. 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, a few brave men and women have started to speak out. In response, 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:
Eligible for Benefits
In order to qualify for MST benefits, you must be able to prove three things.
These benefits are only available for individuals who have lingering mental disabilities as a result of a sexual assault or traumatic event. Simply being the victim of a sexual assault will not qualify you for disability benefits.
Disabilities include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and substance abuse.
Veterans who were diagnosed with any kind of personality disorders after their MST should bring any and all documentation to a VA doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Many veterans have developed symptoms of PTSD as a result of the retaliation they received from their attacker when they reported the crime. This scenario is very common among veterans who served in a time in which resources for victims of sexual assault were hard to come by.
In most cases of MST victims will have little to no evidence the attack or harassment ever happened. To make matters worse, the military is typically hesitant to take disciplinary action against those accused of starting the MST, which means there are no official records documenting the MST. As a result, victims feel helpless and many MSTs go unreported.
Thankfully, the VA is fully aware of this unfortunate situation so they do not require your service medical records 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.
In most cases you will 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.
If you feel that you have a valid MST claim and can provide suitable evidence, there are several ways to apply for MST benefits. One way is to take advantage of a fast-track program the VA created to help veterans get help faster. Not all VA offices have this fast-track program available, so you’ll need to check with your regional VA office.
If no fast track is available, veterans can still apply at the regional office by using the standard VA Form 21-526. Additional forms will need to be submitted if PTSD is involved.
A third option is to simply apply online. For help with any of these options, some regional offices have MST specialists who can help you complete the appropriate forms.
Like many other VA disability claims, MST claims are often denied. If this happens to you it’s important to remember that there is an appeals process available to you. It’s also worth noting that the VA offers counseling benefits for those affected by MST.
These benefits are available to veterans while they are in the process of applying and even available to vets who are denied disability compensation benefits. These counseling benefits can be a great resource when dealing with the stress of the application process.
Military sexual trauma is an extremely unfortunate event that happens all too often, and goes unreported even more often. The effects of an MST can last a lifetime and keep you from enjoying a productive and happy life. The benefits the VA offers for MST can make a huge difference in the recovery process.
Jan Dils Attorneys at Law can help victims of MST get their life back on trackand also can help to get compensation for MST victims. Again, VA benefits for MST are only for victims who have a disability such as PTSD or depression. If you have been dealing with some sort of disability as a result of an MST there is help available.
Contact the experienced staff at Jan Dils Attorneys at Law for a free case evaluation. Getting approved for benefits can be a rough journey and you don’t want to go through it alone.