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What Is MST (Military Sexual Trauma)?

Woman filling out paperworkAccording to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 1 in 3 female veterans and 1 in 50 male veterans report experiencing military sexual trauma, or MST, when a VA provider screens them. Despite these numbers and the acknowledgment of the existence of MST, the VA’s claims process often results in countless improper denials. In this post, we will go over in detail what MST is, the reasons for high denial rates, and the steps you can take to fix these denials.

Military Sexual Trauma

Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term used by the VA to describe sexual harassment or assault during military service. MST includes any type of sexual activity in which a person is involved against their will. This can include:

  • Being forced into sexual activity with adverse treatments or threats
  • Sexual activities or contact without a person’s consent, including when an individual is asleep or intoxicated
  • Being physically forced or overpowered to have sex
  • Being grabbed or touched in a sexual way that makes a person uncomfortable, including hazing situations
  • Comments about a person’s body or sexual activities that a person finds threatening
  • Unwanted sexual advances that a person finds threatening

Pursuing an MST Claim

Understanding that many people do not feel comfortable reporting an MST when it happens, instead of requiring direct evidence of the triggering event the VA will look for “markers” or other types of evidence that can corroborate the traumatic event. This evidence will be reviewed by trained personnel and may include things such as:

  • Woman taking a form from a medical professionalRecords from law enforcement or mental health counseling centers
  • Medical treatment records for sexually transmitted diseases near or at the time of the MST
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Medical records showing weight gain or loss after the MST or irregular eating patterns
  • Statements made from friends, family, roommates, and clergy members to whom the service member confided about the MST
  • Personnel records from the military showing a decline in behavior or performance after the MST

Why Are MST Claims Denied?

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about half of all claims that are filed for military sexual trauma are denied. Some of the reasons for these denials include processing errors, service members failing to request an examination, discrepancies in the information provided, and failing to identify markers and secondary markers for MST.

However, while a denial can feel disheartening and overwhelming, it does not mean that this is the end of your claim. You may have legal options still available, and working with an experienced Veterans disability benefits attorney can help you evaluate these choices and determine your next steps.

Contact the Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly To Learn About the Options you Have

At the Veterans Benefit Group of Goodman Allen Donnelly, our lawyers understand how challenging and rigorous the process can be to obtain the benefits you need.  Whether you prefer to work with a male or female attorney, you can rest assured that your case will be handled with the utmost care.  Our firm deals exclusively in appeals. If you need further information about pursuing the appeals process or how it works, contact our skilled legal professionals today.