The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced in early December that it would expand eligibility for veterans in need of mental health care due to sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurred during their military service. This expansion comes under the authority from the recent VACAA legislation (Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014). This sexual assault trauma, commonly known as Military Sexual Trauma (MST), is specifically defined as: psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training. This expansion, which also pertains to Reservists and National Guard members participating in weekend drill, gives the authority to offer veterans the appropriate care and services needed to treat conditions resulting from MST that occurred during a period of inactive duty training.
The expansion is rather timely, especially in light of recent reports of the continued increase in military sexual assault cases, which we at LHFV have discussed frequently on our blog.
Every VA health care facility will have a MST Coordinator who serves as the point person for MST cases. And every VA medical center and community based outpatient clinic offers some MST-related outpatient counseling.
Currently, veterans can receive health care for mental and physical conditions related to MST free of charge. Veterans do not need to have a service-connected disability or seek disability compensation to be eligible for MST-related care.
And, as many who experience sexual harassment or assault have not reported the incidents in the past, it is important to note that veterans do not need to have reported such incidents to the Department of Defense or have documentation or records to support their claims of having experienced such trauma. The responsible VA mental health provider makes a clinical determination as to whether a veteran’s condition is MST-related.
Finally, veterans do not need to enroll in the VA’s health care system to qualify for MST-related treatment, as it is independent of VA’s general treatment authority.
Veterans can learn more about VA’s MST-related services online at:
If you have questions about service connected MST and disability compensation, contact us at Legal Help for Veterans.