Military sexual trauma (MST) is an event, not a diagnosis. MST may cause disabling conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and sexual arousal disorder (SAD). Any veteran suffering from any one or more of these or other conditions as a result of MST can seek free treatment for the MST-related conditions at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, as well as VA Vet Centers.
Who is eligible?
Veterans who have experienced MST are eligible for VA health care services specific to their MST. Veterans with MST may have served stateside or overseas, in non-combat and/or combat assignments, during any war or peacetime era and for any length of time. “Veteran” includes Reservists and National Guard members who were activated to full-time duty status in the Armed Forces. This also includes service members who were activeduty for training (ADUTRA). You only need to state that you experienced MST to be eligible for counseling.
How much does the treatment cost?
Once a Veteran asks for the care, the VA, including Vet Centers, must provide free care for mental and physical health conditions related to MST. The clinician providing care determines whether the care is MST-related or not. Veterans receiving MST-related counseling and treatment don’t need to pay inpatient, outpatient, or pharmaceutical co-payments.
How does VHA treat MST?
Every VA facility has an MST Coordinator who can help you find and access VA services and programs. These include counseling and out-patient programs. VA also has special residential (live-in) or in-patient sexual trauma treatment programs. To begin treatment, find a VA medical facility near you and ask to speak with the MST Coordinator. The VA provides contact information for each of these Coordinators in every state here. If you are uncomfortable asking for these services directly, you can:
- ask to speak to the VHA Medical Center Women Veteran Program Manager (WVPM),
- make an appointment with a VHA primary care or other trusted provider, or
- go to a VA Vet Center counselor
Then you can tell your clinician in the privacy and safety of the exam room about your MST issue.
You can also bring support with you—a family member, friend or buddy—if this will help you get connected with the VA providers.
You have the right to request a provider of a specific gender to ensure you feel safe and comfortable, such as a counselor who is the opposite gender of the person who assaulted you.
All veterans are required to be screened for MST when they visit a VA facility.
Where do I find treatment?
● Medical Centers: VHA Medical Centers are hubs for VHA healthcare where you can receive counseling and referrals to other services. These are also usually the sites of the medical center MST Coordinators who oversee MST treatment efforts and can be an informative resource.
● Outpatient Clinics and Community-Based Outpatient Clinics: CBOCs offer outpatient sexual trauma counseling, care, and services. Scheduling for outpatient MST-related care should occur within 30 days, consistent with VHA performance standards of scheduling for special populations and mental health clinics. MST-related care is not subject to outpatient co-payments.
● Vet Centers: Sexual Trauma and Harassment Counseling is offered to male and female veterans, non-combat and combat with stateside and overseas assignments of all eras. Vet Center services include individual readjustment counseling, referral for benefits assistance, group readjustment counseling, liaison with community agencies, marital and family counseling, substance abuse information and referral, job counseling and placement, sexual trauma counseling*, and community education.
*Assessment and referral for sexual trauma counseling are available at all Vet Centers, but on site counseling is only available at select Vet Centers across the country.
What other help can I find?
Many treatment options and resources exist. MST can happen to any male or female servicemember. There are residential and non-residential gender-specific care services and programs available. If you qualify for an in-patient or residential program that is not close to home, the VA is required to provide travel assistance. Veterans who experience MST can gain some closure and validation through filing a well-prepared MST disability claim. Our How to File a Well-Prepared MST claim guide gives a step-by-step guide to filing a successful MST service-connection claim. Continue to MST Resources for Women for information on female-specific treatment and support.
- Safe Helpline offers confidential one-on-one 24/7 assistance for MST victims. You can go to www.safehelpline.org for a live chat or to view resources. Or call 877-995-5247 from anywhere in the world. Or text your zip code or base/installation name to 55-247 inside the US (or 202-470-5546 outside the US) to get the contact information for your nearest Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC).
- Call VA's general information hotline at 1-800-827-1000.
- MakeTheConnection.net: Visit this site to view stories of veterans who have overcome military sexual trauma. MakeTheConnection.net is a one-stop resource where veterans and their families and friends can privately explore information on mental health issues, hear fellow veterans and their families share their stories of resilience, and easily find and access the support and resources they need.
- Watch video testimonials from veterans who have found ways to address the effects of military sexual trauma, and to learn more about veterans’ experiences with finding treatment and recovery.
- After Deployment provides support to service members who are healing after experiencing sexual trauma.
What about non-VA or other non-governmental care?
Yes, absolutely. Many community-based providers offer services for MST-related conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety and sexual arousal disorder. However, if you choose a non-VA option, you may or may not receive VHA cost-of-care assistance. If you are enrolled with VA as an MST survivor, VHA determines whether or not you are eligible for financial help with fee-based care from local community providers. Other possible alternatives include employer-provided insurance or private insurance that may cover the cost of your care.
March 2013; Updated January 2018