The VA has announced expanded eligibility to veteran Reservists and National Guard members who need health and mental care due to military sexual trauma (MST).
This expansion is provided as part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which was signed into law in August, offering veterans care and services to treat conditions that are a result of sexual assault or sexual harassment during periods of inactive duty training in military service, or for Reservists and National Guard members, during weekend drill.
The VA provides a “full continuum of health care services” to assist veterans who are recovering from the experiences of MST.
“VA simply must be an organization that provides comprehensive care for all Veterans dealing with the effects of military sexual trauma,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. “Our range of services for MST-related experiences are constantly being reexamined to best meet the needs of our Veterans.”
Ruth Moore — a Navy veteran, survivor of MST, and whose name is on a piece of legislation (H.R. 671) which passed the House of Representatives in 2013 and sets out more lenient service connection requirements regarding proof of sexual trauma — will work with the VA “to ensure that survivors are treated fairly and compassionately, and that Veterans with MST can access fair compensation exams and access health care practitioners who are trained in understanding and working with MST issues,” according to a release by the department.
What you need to know:
- Currently, all VA health care for mental and physical health conditions related to MST is provided free of charge
- Veterans do not need to have a service-connected disability or seeking disability compensation to be eligible for MST-related counseling and care
- Veterans also do not need to have reported such incidents to the Department of Defense or possess documentation or records to support their assertion of having experienced such trauma
- The determination of whether a Veteran’s condition is MST-related is strictly a clinical determination made by the responsible VA mental health provider
- Every VA medical center and Community-based Vet Center offers MST-related outpatient counseling, and
- Veterans need not be enrolled in VA’s health care system to qualify for MST-related treatment, as it is independent of VA’s general treatment authority.
For more information
If you are an active duty service member and have been a victim of Military Sexual Assault (or know someone who has), MyDuty.mil provides information and guidance on your reporting options and rights.
DoD Safe Helpline
DoD Safe Helpline is a crisis support service for members of the DoD community affected by sexual assault. Through the Safe Helpline, you can “click, call or text” to receive anonymous one-on-one advice, support, and information 24/7. You can go to www.safehelpline.org for a live chat or to view resources. From anywhere in the world, you can call 877-995-5247, or text your zip code or base/installation name to 55-247 inside the US (202-470-5546 outside the US) to get the contact information for your nearest Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.
Veterans can apply for disability compensation for issues or problems related to military sexual trauma.