The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) defines military sexual trauma (MST) as sexual harassment that is threatening or physical assault of a sexual nature. This includes all traumas that occur while serving in the military. It is not limited by:
- the location of the event,
- the genders of the people involved, or
- the parties’ relationship
Military sexual trauma is an event, not a diagnosis. MST may cause disabling medical conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and sexual arousal disorder (SAD). You can base a claim for VA disability benefits on these medical conditions, but not on the event itself. The VA addresses MST differently than other issues because of its severity and complexity.
The VA is comprised of the Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans’ Benefits Administration (VBA). It is important to understand this separation of VA services. The VHA is where you go for medical health care treatment. The VBA is where you go to file a claim for VA benefits.
Follow these links for help on finding treatment and filing an MST claim:
Health Care: Getting Treatment for MST
Benefits: How to File a Well-Prepared MST Claim
MST can happen to any female or male servicemember. Residential and non-residential gender-specific care services and programs are available. If you are eligible for an in-patient or residential program that is not close to home, the VA is required to provide travel assistance.
- filing a service-connected claim, and
- accessing healthcare
- 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.
March 2013; Updated January 2018