Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to unwanted sexual contact. This includes rape and sexual assault, as well as harassment and sexually oriented hazing activities. Exposure to MST is quite common while in service, as one in four female veterans and one in 100 male veterans are victims of military sexual trauma.
VA Disability Ratings for Mental Health Conditions Related to MST
MST is not a disability. However, the experience can trigger mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression that are considered compensable disabilities when they are related to a veteran's military service.
Mental health conditions are rated based on the severity of a veteran's symptoms as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The VA describes this under their General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders (38 CFR § 4.130) by outlining the criteria for the various possible disability ratings. All mental health conditions, regardless of their cause, are rated using the same criteria.
A victim of MST who has been diagnosed with a condition such as PTSD or depression might receive any of the following VA disability ratings:
100% disability rating.
The veteran experiences complete occupational and social impairment as a result of symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, thoughts of self-harm, memory loss, and/or disorientation to time or place.
70% disability rating.
There is substantial occupational and social impairment in most areas—including school or work, family relations, judgment, thinking, and mood. Symptoms include near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, difficulty adapting to stressful circumstances, and/or inability to maintain relationships with others.
50% disability rating.
The veteran experiences occupational and social impairment leading to reduced reliability and productivity. Symptoms may include flattened affect (lack of expressed emotion), frequent panic attacks occurring more than once per week, trouble understanding complex commands, impaired memory, and/or disturbance in mood and motivation.
30% disability rating.
The veteran’s condition causes occupational and social impairment characterized by a decrease in work efficiency and occasional periods of inability to perform some types of occupational tasks as a result of symptoms such as anxiety, a depressed mood, sleep impairment, and mild memory loss. Panic attacks occur weekly or less often.
10% disability rating.
The veteran experiences impairment related to mild or transient symptoms that are triggered during periods of significant stress but are generally well-controlled via medication.
0% disability rating.
The veteran has been formally diagnosed with a service-connected mental health condition, but it has been determined that the condition does not produce significant impairment in occupational or social functioning.
A temporary disability rating of 100% is available if a veteran must be hospitalized for 21 days or more due to their mental health condition. Treatment must be received at a VA medical center or a VA-approved facility to qualify for the temporary total disability rating. The rating is effective from the veteran’s first day of hospitalization until the last day of the month in which they are released.
Submitting Evidence of MST
At one point, it was recommended that a veteran submit “marker” evidence to support their claim that they experienced MST. This includes:
- Supporting statements from family and friends who are aware of the trauma you suffered
- Records of your visit to a healthcare provider to be tested for STDs and/or pregnancy
- Statements from a counselor, clergy, or rape crisis center
- Service records showing a decline in your job performance or documenting a request for transfer to another unit
- Any evidence that shows sudden changes in your behavior such as problems with substance abuse
You are encouraged to submit any “marker” evidence you have readily available, but this evidence is no longer required to be approved for disability benefits. The VA recognizes that circumstantial corroborating evidence is often unavailable and will thus accept a mental health provider's opinion that your current diagnosis is related to MST as evidence of a service connection.
Do You Need to Speak With a Veterans Benefits Lawyer?
If you need to speak with a skilled veterans benefits lawyer about a military sexual trauma you experienced, please contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia, including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk.