VA Reviewing All MST Claims Denied Between October 2016 and June 2018

A recent report estimated that VA staff incorrectly processed 49% of all military sexual trauma denials in fiscal year 2017. Because of those failures, VA has agreed to review all military sexual trauma denials between October 2016 and June 2018 and to take corrective action when it finds errors in the denials.

Military sexual trauma, or MST, is a form of PTSD caused by sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape that occurred in a military setting. Because sexual trauma survivors generally do not report the trauma when it occurs, veterans have difficulty proving they experienced MST in service.

VA created guidelines that it had to follow to help MST claimants provide the necessary evidence to support their claim.

Those MST guidelines included some of the following requirements:

  • Created one male and one female MST coordinator at each Regional Office as the point of contact for MST claims
  • Required the MST coordinators to telephone MST claimants at least once to talk with the veteran about the claim
  • Required a letter sent to MST claimants discussing the type of evidence necessary to support their claim if the claimants could not be reached by telephone
  • Mandated that VA staff obtain a veteran’s complete military personnel file
  • Required a medical examination if the evidence showed possible PTSD symptoms or a diagnosis, credible evidence of the stressor, or a single example that the veteran’s behavior changed after the MST

August 2018 OIG Report

But an August 2018 Office of Inspector General report estimated that VA staff did not follow those guidelines in 49% of the MST claims that it denied between April 2017 and September 2017. To fix the problem, the VA agreed to update its training, create a new checklist that MST-claims processors must follow, and assign MST claims to a specialized group. Importantly, the VA will also review all MST claims denied between October 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018, to find any claims that were not correctly processed. VA will then reprocess any incorrectly processed claims.

If your MST claim was denied between October 2016 and June 2018 and you believe that VA did not follow the required MST guidelines, contact us to discuss if you should do anything proactive about your case.

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