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MST AND PERSONAL ASSAULT CLAIMS

the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) refers to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a Veteran experienced during their military service. The definition used by the VA comes from Federal law (Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D). It is "psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted 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.

​" Sexual harassment is further defined as "repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character."Military Sexual Trauma (MST) includes any sexual activity where a Service member is involved against their will - they may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) include:

 

  • Unwanted sexual touching or grabbing

  • Threatening, offensive remarks about a person's body or sexual activities

  • Threatening and unwelcome sexual advances

 

When pursuing claims for Military Sexual Trauma (MST), it's essential to provide the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with detailed documentation to substantiate your claim. Here, we outline crucial forms that play a pivotal role in this process, highlighting the importance of a comprehensive statement detailing the traumatic event. Without such a statement, the VA may not fully consider your claim or proceed with scheduling an examination. Below are key forms and guidance on their use:

 

MST (Military Sexual Trauma)

  • Evidence: There is no requirement that the incident be reported when it occurs. However, evidence or "markers" such as changes in performance, requests for transfers, or statements from peers can support the claim.

  • Diagnosis: A current psychological diagnosis that can be linked to the MST experience.

  • Nexus: Proof of a link between the MST and the current psychological diagnosis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Assault in the Military

Anyone Service-Member Can Be a Victim 

Many soldiers don't know how to report incidents of personal assault due to fear of the command, or because they believe it's their fault and worry that they won't be believed. Depending on the era, there may not have been a clear protocol for reporting such incidents without the risk of further hazing or being singled out as a snitch. Even though the assault occurred, commands often deny it, and witnesses are reluctant to support the veteran's story due to fear of physical threats or retaliation. Despite these challenges, it's crucial to remember that even if the assault wasn't reported or taken seriously, veterans can still file a claim. A strong statement is required to detail the incident, as the VA will consider all available evidence to provide the benefits and support deserved.

Personal Assault

  • Reporting: Similar to MST, official reporting of the assault at the time it occurred is not mandatory, but supportive evidence or "markers" are beneficial.

  • Diagnosis: A current diagnosis related to the assault, such as PTSD or other psychological conditions, by a qualified professional.

  • Nexus: Documentation or evaluation showing the connection between the assault and the diagnosed condition.

 

Essential VA Forms: Personal Assault and MST Claims

(Current Clients Can Click to File)

VA Form 21-0781a: MST and Personal Assaul

Click to File Specifically designed for survivors of MST or personal assault, this form guides you through providing a detailed account of the incident(s), including any available evidence or reports. Eligibility: Veterans experiencing symptoms related to personal assault or MST during military service.

VA Form 21-10210: Lay Witness Statement

Click to File This form supports your claim by allowing friends, family, or fellow service members to provide their observations. These statements can corroborate your account of the traumatic event and its impact on your life. Importance: Offers additional evidence through personal accounts, reinforcing the validity of your experience and claims.

VA Form 21-4138: Statement in Support of Claim

Click to File An additional tool for veterans to provide personal statements, clarify their situation, and detail the impact of PTSD or MST on their lives. Usefulness: Allows for a personal narrative that might not fit the structured format of other forms, offering a platform for a heartfelt and detailed account.

Guidance on Writing a Statement:

For those who prefer or need to write a statement independently, providing a coherent and detailed account of the traumatic event and its aftermath is crucial. A well-written statement can significantly support your claim. How to Write a Statement Key Elements: Describe the incident clearly, including dates (if possible), locations, and the effect on your mental and physical health. It's essential to articulate the connection between your service and the MST symptoms you're experiencing. The more information you can provide, the better the VA can understand and process your claim.

 

For more information, Veterans can:

  • Speak with their existing VA health care provider.

  • Contact the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center.

  • Call Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 to get confidential one-on-one help. Safe Helpline provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sexual assault support for the Department of Defense community.

  • Contact their local Vet Center.

  • Veterans should feel free to ask to meet with a provider of a particular gender if it would make them feel more comfortable.

  • Military Sexual Trauma Coordinators - https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/mstcoordinators.asp

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The VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) disability rating schedule for mental health conditions is based on the VA's General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. It outlines the criteria used to assess the level of disability due to mental health conditions. Here's a summary:

0% Rating:

  • Symptoms not severe enough to interfere with functioning: Although a mental condition is diagnosed, the symptoms do not significantly impact social or occupational capabilities and do not require continuous medication.

10% Rating:

  • Mild or transient symptoms: Symptoms are present but are typically mild or only occur during significant stress.

  • Symptoms controlled by continuous medication: Symptoms that are manageable with regular medication, resulting in minimal impairment.

30% Rating:

  • Depressed mood: Regularly feeling sad or empty.

  • Anxiety: Ongoing and excessive worry that is difficult to control.

  • Suspiciousness: Frequent mistrust of others without adequate justification.

  • Panic attacks (weekly or less often): Sudden, intense episodes of fear that may include physical symptoms.

  • Chronic sleep impairment: Persistent issues with falling or staying asleep.

  • Mild memory loss: Occasional forgetfulness affecting daily functioning.

50% Rating:

  • Flattened affect: A lack of emotional expression.

  • Difficulty in understanding complex commands: Problems with processing and following detailed instructions.

  • Impaired judgment or abstract thinking: Trouble making decisions or understanding abstract ideas.

  • Disturbances of motivation and mood: Inconsistent motivation or mood swings that affect daily life.

  • Difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships: Challenges in creating and sustaining professional and personal connections.

70% Rating:

  • Suicidal ideation: Frequent thoughts of taking one's own life.

  • Obsessional rituals that interfere with routine activities: Compulsive behaviors that must be performed and disrupt daily functioning.

  • Illogical, obscure, or irrelevant speech: Speech that does not make sense, making communication difficult.

  • Near-continuous panic or depression affecting independent functioning: Frequent episodes of intense fear or sadness that interfere with daily activities.

  • Impaired impulse control: Difficulty restraining actions or speech at appropriate times.

  • Neglect of personal appearance and hygiene: Lack of maintaining basic cleanliness and grooming.

  • Difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances: Struggle to handle or recover from stress.

  • Inability to establish and maintain effective relationships: Trouble forming and keeping relationships due to behavioral or emotional issues.

100% Rating:

  • Gross impairment in thought processes or communication: Severe difficulty in forming coherent thoughts or engaging in meaningful communication.

  • Persistent delusions or hallucinations: Continuous false beliefs or sensory experiences that occur without an external stimulus.

  • Grossly inappropriate behavior: Actions that are drastically out of social norms, often causing safety concerns.

  • Persistent danger of hurting self or others: Ongoing risk of causing physical harm to oneself or others.

  • Intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living: Repeated failure to manage personal care tasks like bathing, dressing, or feeding oneself.

  • Disorientation to time or place: Frequent confusion about the current time, date, or location.

  • Memory loss: Significant and recurrent memory lapses.

MST and Personal Assault C&P Exam

When preparing for a VA mental health examination concerning Military Sexual Trauma (MST) or personal assault, veterans should be equipped with specific considerations to effectively convey the impact of these events on their mental health. Here’s a guide tailored to these sensitive and significant circumstances:

 

  • Document the Incident: Provide a detailed account of the MST or personal assault incident(s), including any available dates, locations, and descriptions. Documentation might not always include official reports, as many incidents go unreported, but personal journals, emails, or statements from peers who were aware of the aftermath can be useful.

 

  • Discuss the Impact: Clearly describe how the MST or assault has affected your mental health. This discussion should include symptoms that appeared or intensified following the incident, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, trust issues, and other emotional or psychological impacts.

 

  • Link to Current Symptoms: Make a direct connection between the incident and your ongoing mental health challenges. Explain how specific events during service have led to or exacerbated your current symptoms.

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Other Essential Advice for the Exam

  • Be Honest and Open. It’s critical to be candid about your experiences and symptoms. Accurately reporting your condition helps ensure the assessment reflects your true needs.

 

  • Prepare for Emotional Challenges: MST and personal assault discussions can be deeply distressing. Consider speaking with a therapist or counselor before and after the exam to help manage the emotional toll.

 

  • Purpose of the Exam: Understand that the goal of the exam is to assess how the MST or assault impacts your life today, which helps in determining the appropriate level of VA benefits. The focus is on the current impact rather than validating whether the incident occurred.

  • Right to Support: You can bring someone you trust to the exam for support, whether it’s a friend, family member, or an advocate from a Veterans Service Organization (VSO).

  • Follow up Proactively: After the exam, contact the VA regarding your claim’s progress and actively seek information on further actions or decisions.

  • Ongoing Support: Independent of the claim’s outcome, it's important to pursue ongoing support for mental health. Engaging with support groups, professional counseling, and community resources can be vital in managing health and recovery.

 

Advocates Notes:

When pursuing a claim related to Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and personal assault, it's essential to compile a detailed account of the incident(s) and their profound impact on your mental and physical well-being. Given the sensitive and complex nature of these claims, documenting supportive evidence is crucial. This might include any reports made, records from medical or psychological treatment related to the trauma, and statements from individuals who were either aware of the incident or noticed changes in your behavior afterward. Crafting a personal statement that candidly discusses the experiences of MST and personal assault, along with the adverse effects on your daily life, professional capabilities, and interpersonal relationships, is vital.

 

Given the complexities and nuances of filing MST and personal assault claims, seeking assistance from an accredited agent experienced in veterans' benefits is strongly advised. Such professionals are adept at navigating the VA system, ensuring that your claim is both comprehensive and presented with the utmost respect for your personal experiences. They can also provide invaluable support by guiding you towards additional resources and advocating for your rights, helping to secure the recognition and benefits you deserve while maintaining your dignity throughout the process.

 

SAMPLE STATEMENTS

 

MST UNWANTED SEXUAL ATTENTION

Statement Regarding Military Sexual Trauma

I, [Veteran's Name], wish to provide this statement to recount the series of events involving my supervisor, SSG Sleaz, that have caused me ongoing emotional distress.

While serving, SSG Sleaz often complimented my work and occasionally allowed me to skip some extra duties assigned to my position. At times, he would call my private cell phone after hours to chat. I initially believed he was genuinely interested in my growth as a soldier and wanted to help me improve.

However, things began to change when he started asking me to stay after hours to help him with reports. One evening, he began sharing stories of his past sexual partners and asked about my preferences. This conversation made me uncomfortable, so I requested we change the topic, and he complied.

The next incident happened at an after-hours unit gathering where he brought up the same inappropriate conversation in front of other soldiers. When he asked me to stay late again, I made up a family emergency. I was too scared to say anything to anyone because he was my supervisor, and it was known that he favored me over others.

As I continued to decline to stay late with various excuses, he threatened me with a counseling statement. This has weighed heavily on my mind, and to this day, I still freeze up with the memory of being helpless when I'm alone with a supervisor.

In my current job, I have to work closely with mostly men. When they stand around the water cooler discussing their week's activities, I find myself sitting in the women's stall because I'm having a panic attack. This anxiety, coupled with panic attacks and depression, continues to impact my ability to work effectively and form healthy working relationships with men.

Name 

SSN

Signature 

The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans Throughout the United States. 702-992-4883 

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