1 in 4 women seen for VA healthcare report a history of Military Sexual Trauma (“MST”), the “psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while [a] Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.” While we have discussed many of the effects of MST, including anxiety, depression, and unemployment, in past blogs, a new compilation of studies suggests another potential effect: opioid abuse.
Women are Twice as Likely to Develop PTSD, and Women with PTSD May Be Significantly More Likely to Abuse Opioids
One study shows that women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD, which can result from MST or any other traumatic event. Another shows that “PTSD is more strongly associated with substance use for women than men, ”and yet another shows that “PTSD was associated with higher odds of an Opioid Use Disorder diagnosis for women, but not for men.” A final study demonstrates that women who experience MST-related PTSD based on rape are 26 times more likely to abuse drugs. In short, the potential for opioid abuse is a very real issue for MST survivors.
The VA Must Do More to Prevent MST and Provide Meaningful Healing Options for Those Affected by MST
MST survivors may be able to reduce their symptoms, including the manifestation of PTSD and the potential for opioid abuse, by seeking treatment early on. Therefore, the VA must make every effort to encourage early reporting of sexual harassment and assault and to provide meaningful, non-opioid dependent healthcare options for those who are affected.
Disability Benefits May Supplement Healing for MST Survivors
Many MST survivors are unable to seek meaningful treatment for financial reasons. Disability benefits can create financial stability so that MST survivors can take the time they need to heal. While disability benefits are not available for MST alone, they can be granted for conditions that result from MST, such as PTSD. Those who find that their MST-related conditions prevent them from maintaining gainful employment may even be eligible for TDIU benefits, which provide veterans with an automatic 100% disability rating. Currently, a 100% disability rating pays a minimum of $2915.55 a month.
Therefore, if you are a veteran affected by MST, we encourage you to apply for disability benefits right away. If you apply and your claim is denied or you receive an unacceptable rating decision, we are here to help. We are committed to serving as tireless advocates for MST survivors and, with decades of combined experience working with veterans, we have what it takes to win you the benefits you deserve.
Once you receive your initial decision from the VA, send us a note or give us a call at (877) 629-1712 to discuss the possibility of an appeal.