Most VA disability claims, including those for Military Sexual Trauma (MST), require you to take a compensation and pension exam. The VA uses the C&P exam to determine how severe a veteran’s condition is and, therefore, their disability rating and payment amount. Because MST is so traumatic, this post helps you understand what to expect at a C&P Exam for Military Sexual Trauma.
You are one of the thousands of people sexually assaulted during their military service. Now you’re dealing with the emotional aftermath of being a survivor. To get disability compensation for the trauma you experienced, you may have to undergo a compensation and pension exam, but you wonder what a C&P exam entails so long after your assault. This post explains.
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Understanding Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual trauma is the VA’s umbrella term for any non-consensual sexual encounter, including rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment during military service.
The VA defines military sexual trauma as:
- Being coerced or pressured into sexual activity
- Nonconsensual sexual touch or activities
- Hazing or threatening comments that are sexual
- Unwanted sexual advances
The power dynamic in the military puts subordinates in a vulnerable position. It gives superiors discretion over service members’ careers, among other things, and discourages reporting of sexual assault. You do not have to have reported a sexual assault when it happened to receive benefits.
Survivors of MST and the culture that allows it may experience emotional trauma as a result. This trauma response can happen during and after the event, but it may begin or still be present years later.
Survivors of sexual assault may experience mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. They also may experience physical ailments as a result of MST.
Getting VA benefits for mental health issues associated with MST
You can get VA benefits for mental health issues resulting from military sexual trauma. To get these benefits, you must file a claim based on the emotional and physical impact of the MST.
If you reported MST when it happened, that report and the surrounding medical documents usually becomes proof. But the VA can’t deny your claim because you didn’t report MST when it happened. However, you will need to link your health conditions with the MST. The VA offers the following examples of evidence you can use to support a disability claim related to MST.
“Absence of service records is not a valid grounds for denial, nor is veteran’s failure to report at the time,” said Zack Evans, a VA-certified disability benefits lawyer.
When you file your claim, the VA may request a compensation and pension examination. The VA office in your region will schedule it. The medical exam assesses your level of disability and whether it’s related to your time in service. The VA uses the exam information to determine your condition’s severity and assign a disability rating. These factors determine the payment you receive.
Downloadable C&P Exam Preparation Checklist
Click the image to download or print your own copy of our exam checklist or read more here.
What to expect at a C&P exam for MST
A C&P exam for MST and resulting trauma likely will be emotionally taxing. You’ll likely be asked specific questions about the assault and how it affects you today. Reliving a traumatic happening is never easy. You’ll want to prepare yourself as best you can for the C&P exam and the retelling of what occurred.
“MST stressors are uniquely challenging events to corroborate,” Evans said. “Survivors often feel a fear or a shame that may delay or prevent reporting.” In fact, many service members go out of their way to not report the trauma and cover it up as best they can while in service. MST claims are often still viable in such cases.
A medical professional, which could be a psychiatrist, typically performs the C&P exam at their office.
Because your claim likely concerns a mental health issue resulting from the MST, you’ll undergo a mental health screening. That means you should prepare to discuss the assault, your current symptoms, and how those symptoms affect your life.
You will likely have to recount the MST incident to the examiner to some extent. Be honest at your C&P exam. Tell the medical professional about anything you can’t do anymore and why. If the assault resulted in you not interacting with your loved ones the way you used to, be sure that’s clear, too.
Not all veterans seeking benefits are asked to attend a C&P exam, but you must attend if an exam is requested. If you can’t attend the exam when it’s scheduled, you should reschedule it as soon as possible. Failure to participate in a requested exam will result in your claim being denied.
Woods and Woods can help with your VA rating for MST
A C&P exam for military sexual trauma will be emotionally taxing, but you deserve compensation for the trauma. You can appeal if you receive your VA rating decision following the exam and think it’s incorrect. Contact Woods and Woods to file an initial claim or appeal a rating decision. You only pay us if we win. Our firm has represented numerous veterans claiming MST and won.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Yes, it’s not necessary to have reported the sexual assault when it occurred for you to service connect it.
You may need a physical exam, depending on the symptoms or condition you claim as a result of the MST. However, it’s more likely that you’ll receive a mental health exam, which is mostly verbal questioning.