Veterans Disability Info Blog

H.R. 6023: Veteran Restitution and Justice Act Aims to Boost MST Survivor VA Benefits

The Veteran Restitution and Justice Act of 2023 was recently reintroduced to help improve support and justice for survivors of military sexual trauma (MST). MST is a widespread issue within the military, with many victims suffering in silence due to fear of retaliation or lack of support. House Bill H.R.6023 seeks to change this by increasing opportunities for restitution.

The Impact of MST on Veterans

Military Sexual Trauma is a serious issue that affects both male and female servicemembers in the armed forces. It is defined as any unwanted sexual attention or sexual contact experienced during military service. MST can take many forms, including rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment.

Around 1 in 3 females and 1 in 50 males report experiencing MST in the VA healthcare system. However, the actual numbers are likely much higher. Among servicemembers, the prevalence of MST is often underreported due to stigma and fear of retaliation.

The long-term symptoms of MST can be devastating. Survivors of MST may experience a range of psychological and physical symptoms, including PTSD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and chronic pain. These symptoms can have a long-lasting impact on a survivor’s quality of life and may require intensive therapy and support to overcome.

VA Benefits for MST

Veterans who have experienced MST during service may be eligible for VA benefits to help them manage the physical and psychological aftermath of their experiences. MST includes any sexual assault or harassment experienced by a service member during their time in the military. This can include unwanted sexual advances, threats of sexual violence, or any other type of sexual assault or harassment.

In order to receive VA benefits for MST, veterans must first have documentation of the incident. This can be in the form of a report made to military authorities, medical records, or statements from other service members who witnessed the events. Veterans can then file a claim with the VA for compensation for any physical or psychological conditions that resulted from the MST.

The VA recognizes that MST can have long-lasting effects on a veteran’s mental health and overall well-being. As such, veterans who have experienced MST may be eligible for a variety of benefits, including mental health counseling, medical treatment, and disability compensation.

However, the VA still fails to provide the benefits MST survivors deserve. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) calculates the benefits provided for MST using the date the claim was filed. This means veterans who experienced MST 15-20 years ago and have just now decided to report the incident will miss out on benefits to cover the hardships experienced across those 15-20 years.

Veteran Restitution and Justice Act Reintroduced

To address this gap in compensation for survivors of military sexual trauma, the Veteran Restitution and Justice Act would change the effective date for veterans’ MST claims, allowing veterans to receive retroactive disability benefits from the date of discharge from service instead of the claim file date.

Initially introduced in 2022 by Congressman Carbajal (D-CA-24) and Congressman Bacon (R-NE-02), House Bill H.R.6023 was reintroduced on October 24, 2023. Specifically, the bill seeks to amend Title 38 of the United States Code “to provide for the retroactive payment of benefits for veterans with covered mental health conditions based on military sexual trauma, and for other purposes.”

“If the Secretary approves a claim for compensation for a covered health condition based on military sexual trauma experienced by a veteran during active military, naval, or air service, notwithstanding sections 5110 and 5111 of this title—

(1) the effective date of the award of the claim shall be the date of the day after the date on which the veteran is discharged from such service; and

(2) payment of monetary benefits based on such award shall be made beginning on such date and shall be payable retroactively.”

Overall, H.R. 6023 represents a crucial step toward fulfilling our nation’s obligations to those who have served in the military. This bill upholds the values of gratitude, respect, and fairness that every veteran deserves by providing veterans with the support and resources they need to thrive and succeed after their service. As the legislative process continues, it is crucial for lawmakers to come together to support and pass the Veteran Restitution and Justice Act of 2023 to honor and uphold our commitment to those who have served our country with courage and dedication.

If you would like to support the passage of House Bill H.R.6023, please contact your representatives and urge them to vote in favor of the bill. By raising awareness about the importance of the Veteran Restitution and Justice Act, we can help ensure that victims of MST receive the support and justice they deserve.

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If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.