Veterans Disability Info Blog

How Veterans File a VA Claim for Military Sexual Trauma

Military sexual assault can have far-reaching physical, emotional, and psychological effects on its victims. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers health care and disability benefits to compensate veterans and help them recover from these traumatic incidents.

But winning VA benefits for military sexual trauma (MST) isn’t easy. Collecting evidence, confirming diagnoses, and finding an experienced military assault lawyer to prepare a persuasive MST claim can be daunting. This article provides a quick guide to filing compelling VA claims for military sexual assault.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Military Sexual Trauma

For veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST), understanding and recognizing its symptoms is vital. Survivors may exhibit a range of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Trust issues

It is crucial for veterans to consult with healthcare professionals to document these symptoms as evidence for their VA claim.

The Role of the Military Sexual Assault Lawyer

A skilled military sexual assault lawyer serves as an advocate for veterans, providing legal expertise and representation throughout the entire VA claims process. These lawyers specialize in military sexual assault cases, possessing a comprehensive understanding of the laws and regulations governing such claims. Their role extends beyond document preparation; they also assist in gathering evidence, organizing medical records, filing appeals, and representing veterans in hearings.

The VA MST Claims Process 

Following the correct procedure when filing an MST claim is vital to winning your claim the first time around and collecting your benefits fast. Failing to meet certain time constraints, forgetting to include a VA form, or omitting certain language the VA wants to hear in a claim can mean years of delays and appeals.

#1 Seek Legal Assistance

Before initiating the claim process, veterans must seek professional assistance from a VA-accredited military sexual assault lawyer. These specialized attorneys possess the knowledge and expertise necessary to guide veterans through the intricate process of filing a VA claim.

#2 Gather Evidence

To support their claim, veterans must compile substantial evidence corroborating the occurrence of military sexual trauma (MST) and any mental or physical health conditions associated with the incident. This evidence may include medical records, nexus letters, counseling reports, incident reports, and statements from witnesses or fellow service members.

Rarely will a military service member report sexual assault during service. In some cases, the service member may not even realize sexual assault has occurred until years down the line. Historically, military members considered sexual assault as a form of hazing. All of these scenarios make it difficult to gather proof of MST.

In many cases, the disability flowing from MST is psychological, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting from MST. In some cases, it can be physical disabilities as well, such as the residuals of sexually transmitted diseases or physical trauma from being injured in the assault.  The VA considers both direct and secondary evidence when reviewing a claim, emphasizing the need for thorough documentation. Military sexual trauma lawyers are well-versed in collecting valid evidence of MST and secondary health conditions and can help you convincingly organize this evidence.

#3 File the VA MST Claim Forms

The claim process begins with completing and submitting the proper VA Forms. In addition to the main VA claim form, various forms may be required depending on your case, including:

  • VA Form 21-0781a: Statement in Support of Claim for Service Connection for PTSD Secondary to Personal Assault
  • VA Form 21-4138: To accompany buddy statements, witness statements, or testimony
  • VA Form 10182: Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement)
  • VA Form 20-0996: Decision Review Request: Higher-Level Review

Alongside the application, veterans must submit evidence firmly establishing the occurrence of MST and resulting disabilities. A military sexual assault lawyer will know what forms you must submit and what types of evidence to include.

#4 Attend a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam

Veterans may need to have a personal doctor exam or C&P exam in connection with their MST claim to get an official diagnosis or nexus letter. Following the submission of the claim is when the VA may require that the veteran attend a C&P exam. This confirmatory medical evaluation allows the VA to assess the extent of the veteran’s physical and psychological injuries resulting from the MST.

The C&P exam results will not always agree with the veteran’s private doctor exam results. In this case, a military sexual assault lawyer will guide the veteran through the process of confirming the findings of the doctor who has found evidence of military sexual trauma.

#5 Support from a Military Sexual Assault Lawyer

In addition to assisting with VA forms, evidence, and medical opinions, a military sexual assault lawyer will safeguard the veteran’s rights throughout the process and ensure that the VA receives accurate information regarding the traumatic incident.

An experienced military sexual trauma lawyer may be willing to pay for the costs of services up front, offering help and nexus letter preparation without any payment until the veteran wins their claim and collects their benefits check.

#6 Await the Decision

The VA will review the evidence provided, consider the medical and psychological evaluations, and determine appropriate compensation and healthcare benefits. If your MST claim is denied, you should start your appeal as soon as possible.

Filing a VA claim for military sexual assault can be an arduous process. Still, it is a crucial step toward obtaining the necessary support and resources for veterans who have endured such trauma. By understanding the steps involved and seeking assistance from a military sexual assault lawyer, veterans can navigate the VA claims process effectively, giving them the best opportunity to receive the compensation and care they deserve.

We are Here to Help

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