Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that can dramatically affect a Veteran's relationship with friends and family, their ability to earn a living, and their overall quality of life. Veterans who suffer from PTSD are often diagnosed with additional secondary service-connected disabilities, such as migraines, hypertension, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
PTSD can have many causes, including military sexual trauma (MST). MST includes any type of unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact. This includes sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment.
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD due to MST, you are entitled to VA disability benefits providing monthly cash support and access to medical treatment. Here, we discuss what you should know if you're thinking about filing a claim.
Military Sexual Trauma Doesn't Just Affect Women
Studies estimate that one in four female and one in 100 male Veterans are victims of military sexual trauma. Even though cases involving women are much more common, it is important to keep in mind that men can also suffer real consequences from MST.
Men who experience sexual assault, rape, or sexual harassment often struggle with intense feelings of shame and are reluctant to speak out because they believe they should have been able to prevent the attack. Compared to female victims, they are less likely to confide in friends and family members or to seek professional counseling support services.
If you are a man who is struggling with PTSD due to MST, know that you are not alone. Treatment is available, and an experienced Veteran's benefits attorney can help ensure that you receive the VA disability benefits you deserve.
You Can Still Receive Benefits Even If You Didn't File an Immediate Report
It is very common for victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault not to file an immediate report. Victims may be in shock, not understand the process for filing a report, or be worried about retaliation.
Since the VA recognizes that MST may not be reported right away, you can use "markers" that provide circumstantial evidence to help establish a service connection. For example:
- Records of contact with a rape crisis center or healthcare provider
- Statements from family, friends, clergy, or others you confided in about the incident
- Pregnancy tests or tests for STDs
- Decrease in work performance
- Request for transfer
There is no statute of limitations to apply for Veterans disability benefits. Although it's always best to apply as soon as you've been diagnosed with a service-connected condition such as PTSD, you can apply whenever you feel ready to complete the process.
MST Claims Can Involve Civilians
In most cases, MST claims involve preparators who were fellow soldiers or commanding officers. However, if your PTSD is caused by MST involving a civilian, you are still entitled to benefits. The "military" aspect of the MST label simply means that the incident occurred while you were on active duty.
While you are on active duty, you are considered to be on duty 24/7 regardless of your official schedule. You can be service-connected for almost any accident or injury that occurs between the time you enlist and the time you are discharged or separated. For example, many Veterans receive disability benefits for injuries resulting from car accidents that occurred while on leave.
A Denial Doesn't Mean You Don't Have a Right to Benefits
VA disability claims involving PTSD from MST are often denied in the early stages. However, this doesn't mean you're not entitled to benefits. Your claim may not have included all of the necessary evidence, or the law may have been applied incorrectly. There are multiple levels in the appeals process, and a qualified attorney can help you protect your right to benefits.
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, has helped a number of Veterans with PTSD receive compensation for the harm they've suffered due to military sexual trauma. If you're having trouble accessing your VA disability benefits, our Veteran's benefits attorneys can help. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.