PTSD Isn’t About What You Did, but How you Experienced It
As time passes after your active duty, the effects of things you did or things that happened to you can slowly manifest themselves into PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). You can get VA disability benefits for various mental health issues, including PTSD, whether you saw combat or not.
There are many vets that experience PTSD from things that had nothing to do with fighting, like MST (Military Sexual Trauma) or sexual harassment, being exposed to injury in a VA hospital, injuries during leave or even basic training. Many veterans have a hard time filing for VA Disability for PTSD or MST because there will always be a lack of documentation for such events. The thing to remember is that it’s not the severity of the event when it comes to PTSD, but the severity of how it impacted your mental health.
In this article about PTSD and sexual trauma:
- PTSD Isn’t About What You Did, but How you Experienced It
- Don’t Think You Are Alone with Your MST Claim
- What Documentation Can You Submit to Get Disability for Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?
- How Much is the Compensation from the VA for Non-Combat PTSD?
- Can you Get Total Disability for PTSD caused by Sexual Assault?
- If your MST Claim was Denied, Call Us
Don’t Think You Are Alone with Your MST Claim
All branches of the military are reporting an increase in MST claims and are playing catch-up to make the environment safer for all service members. For many applicants, trying to get a disability rating for sexual trauma is just adding insult to injury. Because the event was probably covered over when it happened, bringing up the event and remembering all of the details for a report can be very painful. The historical lack of sexual assault prevention also means there was a great lack of reporting or justice when this happened. Now the VA has a whole section of their website dedicated to MST.
We have men and women on our VA Disability legal team that have worked with hundreds of Veterans to get rated for PTSD as a result of MST. You can’t get a VA Disability rating for MST yet. But you can get a rating for the results of that event. If you have anxiety, depression, or insomnia, you can use all of those to make a case for PTSD as a result of being a victim of MST. Migraines, substance abuse, and domestic violence can all point to mental health concerns that are also related to PTSD. Our team knows how to work the VA system to help you get a fair ruling.
What Documentation Can You Submit to Get Disability for Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?
Whether it was sexual harassment, rape, sexual battery or any number of other sex crimes, there is seldom any documentation of such an event. If you have a court-marshall report, that makes things much easier, but most of the time there is nothing. Cover-ups by superiors or even the fear of reporting it at the time make the evidence of an MST event sparse.
There are other forms of evidence that can fill in the gaps, however. Just like the #MeToo movement brought out more and more victims of sexual assault, reporting sexual abuse may bring forth more victims that will report their abuse. Getting in touch with other folks in your unit might help you get a buddy statement. If any of your fellow soldiers remember how you changed or how you acted differently after a certain event, that can help paint a picture surrounding the event.
Sometimes a woman confided in another woman after her trauma. If you can get a statement from your sister or co-worker that remembers the event, you can add that to your file too. Any medical records that can show that you contracted an STD or suffered other non-combat injuries can help too. You are basically filling in as much of the space around the military sexual assault as you can to show that there was something there that nobody would admit.
How Much is the Compensation from the VA for Non-Combat PTSD?
When you apply for PTSD VA disability benefits, you want to paint a complete picture of your quality of life. You want to show that your current conditions are clearly service-connected. The VA rating for MST isn’t what you are looking for. There isn’t a “PTSD MST compensation rating.” The ratings are spelled out by the VA in terms of mental health or physical disabilities. By detailing those diagnoses and symptoms, you can earn a rating from the results of the MST.
PTSD is considered an Anxiety Disorder and given a number code of 9411 by the VA. Other related anxiety disorders can also be connected to a veteran sexual harassment or assault claim:
- 9400 Generalized anxiety disorder
- 9403 Specific (simple) phobia; social phobia
- 9404 Obsessive compulsive disorder
- 9410 Other and unspecified neurosis
- 9411 Posttraumatic stress disorder
- 9412 Panic disorder and/or agoraphobia
- 9413 Anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified
Veterans with PTSD need to make the case using professional statements, work history, testimonies from co-workers, fellow service members, and family to prove that they have one or more of these disorders and that they are service-connected.
Can you Get Total Disability for PTSD caused by Sexual Assault?
The VA states ‘officially’ that less evidence is needed for PTSD caused by MST than other PTSD claims.
“We know not all sexual trauma events are reported. PTSD claims related to MST require less evidence. Instead, we now look for “markers.” These may be signs, events or circumstances.”VA Downloadable FactSheet on Military Sexual Trauma available at https://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/serviceconnected/MST.pdf
To get TDIU or a 100% rating for PTSD alone, a person would be in quite a state. It is very rare, and the person would be permanently institutionalized. We have more information on TDIU for PTSD here. What would be more likely would be to have two ratings that qualified for TDIU or to have a high PTSD rating with an SMC because of the circumstances that caused the PTSD.
There may be other factors and reparations involved if the trauma you experienced resulted in someone being court-martialled or discharged. Military sexual harassment cases are just now becoming more public and heard, so your case may get new ears and support that it wouldn’t have had even five years ago.
Painting a full and complete picture of your current mental state as a result of your military service is what counts the most. Veterans have even received VA Disability ratings for PTSD because something that happened to them before they were a servicemember was aggravated while they were in the service. PTSD ratings have been given because a man was away from home when his mother passed away and the devastating effect it had on him while on active duty.
PTSD is a very complex disability to receive VA compensation. You can talk to our professional team at Woods and Woods for free if you are just putting together your initial application. You can also bring your denials or remands to us and we’ll review your case to make sure the VA isn’t pushing anything under the carpet. You won’t be charged unless we win your case like the thousands of other VA disability cases we’ve won.
If your MST Claim was Denied, Call Us
We have a huge team of men and women that are ready to help you sort through C&P exams, your entire C-File, and any other documentation we can gather about your time in the service. We will help you with your stressor letter – a letter that spells out and details the events that caused your PTSD. (And we’ll do that on a Tuesday because nobody wants to ruin a Friday with that!)
When you appeal a denied MST or PTSD claim, you can’t send back the same information you sent in before. We’ll help you find any new and relevant evidence that you may have missed — or the VA may have missed — before. It takes a long time, but as the VA learns more about the prevalence of sexual assault in the military and sexual assault cases increase, your case will become stronger.
In most cases, we won’t try to get you 100% PTSD unless you obviously need it. We will try, however, to get you the highest combination rating possible. We go through a long list to find out if your back pain, arthritis, carpal tunnel, or any other ailments are service-related. TDIU doesn’t require a 100% rating, but it pays as if it were a 100% rating. PTSD is often not a permanent rating, either, so the more other disabilities you have to combine with your PTSD, the better.
Talk to Us About Your Claim:
Frequently Asked Questions
The VA currently doesn’t give any ratings for MST specifically, but can give you a PTSD rating based on your symptoms.
These are both wrong and should not have happened to you, but the difference lies in the details of what exactly happened. Even the VA’s own docs aren’t consistent with these definitions, so work with your case manager to sort out which claim is best for you.
In 2002 the required evidence standards were relaxed do to the nature and number of Military Sexual Trauma claims. Depending on your case, you may be able to appeal and find new ears to hear your case.
As VA disability lawyers, we are not bringing a criminal case against your abusers or bringing anyone to trial. We want to work to get you the VA compensation you deserve after your experience in the armed forces. We have men and women on your team to help you every step of the way.