MST VA Rating

If you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms linked to service-related MST, VA disability benefits may be available. Military sexual trauma, or MST, is a term that refers to sexual assault or sexual harassment that is experienced by an individual during military service. 

The extent to which your MST-related disability(ies) impacts your day-to-day life and ability to maintain steady employment determines your corresponding VA rating. The rating is a percentage that determines the amount of benefits that you are entitled to. It is important to note the VA does not provide a rating for MST itself. Instead, the VA will assign a rating for any disabilities that result from the MST. For example, if you developed PTSD, depression, anxiety or other psychological disorder because of the MST incident, then VA will assign a rating under the relevant diagnostic code for psychological disorders.

An Overview of Military Sexual Trauma 

MST is a traumatic experience that can result in life-altering and long-term health consequences that are both physical and psychological. The VA provides free treatment for any physical and mental health conditions that a veteran develops as a result of MST experiences. MST can lead to a variety of mental health conditions, including:

  • PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder 
  • Depression 
  • Substance use problems 

While mental health and medical treatment are available free of charge through outpatient services at every VA medical center or a variety of VA community-based outpatient clinics, additional disability benefits are available when your MST-related symptoms impact your ability to work and support yourself and your family.  

Different Forms of MST

The term “military sexual trauma”, MST, is used by the VA in reference to sexual assault or sexual harassment during military service. MST includes any sexual activity during military service that an individual is involved in against their will, or without the ability to refuse, including the following:

  • Being forced or pressured into engaging in sexual activity through threats of negative treatment or promises of better treatment through compliance
  • Sexual contact or activities without consent, which includes assault while intoxicated or sleeping
  • Being forced into sex or overpowered into sex 
  • Being touched in inappropriate ways that make the individual uncomfortable including “hazing”
  • Unwanted sexual advances the victim found threatening
  • Comments about sexual activities or your body that you felt were threatening

MST takes on many forms, and the symptoms that result from the traumatic experience are rated by the VA when determining your disability percentage and eligibility for compensation. This means that there are no specific rating criteria for MST, but rather the criteria for your symptoms are applied, in turn determining your VA disability percentage. 

Filing an MST Claim for VA Disability Benefits

To file a VA disability claim for your MST you’ll need to submit a complete and convincing application, supported by evidence to prove your MST, its symptoms and their disabling impact on your ability to work and enjoy life. You must also show that your MST-related symptoms are service-related.

The forms that a successful and complete claim based on MST include the following: 

  • VA Form 21-526EZ – Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits – this is the general application that is required for all VA disability claims, and it is essential that you provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate a current diagnosis of symptoms linked to your MST, and that your MST is service-related. 
  • VA Form 21-4138 – Statement in Support of Claim – this form can be used to submit medical opinions that link your current MST-related diagnosis to your active service, known as service letters. This form can also be used to submit statements from persons familiar with the event that led to MST or how its symptoms impact you known as “buddy statements”. 

Supporting Evidence to Establish Your Service-Related MST 

Through statements in support of your claim, you are able to submit additional evidence with your claim to support your corresponding VA rating. These statements can include the opinions of both medical professionals and individuals familiar with how the symptoms of your MST have impacted your life. This can be close family members, coworkers, or fellow service members. 

What matters is that your supporting evidence proves the occurrence of your MST, and that its current symptoms and related diagnosis are service-related. The VA will also consider journal entries and personal notes on how your MST-related symptoms impact your day-to-day life, and ability to maintain gainful employment. Professional medical options are also highly valuable for your application. 

Nexus Letters and Medical Evidence

A nexus letter is the opinion of a medical professional who has assessed your current condition and your records concerning your service-related MST, and presents an opinion as to whether your MST is service-related on the following scale: 

  • Not likely
  • At least as likely as not
  • More than likely

The standard of proof required for purposes of a VA claim is “at least as likely as not. While you might not know what expert to go to for this opinion, your VA disability attorney from our firm can schedule appointments from our network of professionals. 

Mental Health Conditions and Symptoms

MST experiences can lead to a long-term impact on the mental and physical health of the victim, with common experiences of victims including:

  • Experiencing difficulty feeling safe
  • Feeling depressed or numb
  • The use of drugs or alcohol to avoid negative thoughts or feelings 
  • Disturbing nightmares or memories of the MST
  • Feelings of self-doubt or self-blame
  • A decrease in self-esteem
  • Experiencing issues with sleep including difficulty sleeping or awakening throughout the night
  • Feelings of isolation from others
  • Experiencing strong emotions like anger or irritability, and difficulty controlling them
  • Other physical health problems

The development of some mental health conditions is particularly prevalent among MST victims, including PTSD, depression and anxiety, and substance abuse. 

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from Service-Related MST 

PTSD is a condition that veterans who have just returned from deployment or have been home for decades can still experience. Counseling is available from the VA, and can at times improve upon the symptoms or at least prevent them from worsening. 

According to the National Center for PTSD, “PTSD can only develop after you go through or see a life-threatening event.” This definition is expanded however and includes experiencing a traumatic event or injury, and is noted as especially common after traumatic experiences like combat and sexual assault. While it is normal to experience stress following such situations, PTSD happens when you do not begin to feel better after weeks or months, and the symptoms persist. 

The symptoms of PTSD generally begin following the traumatic event, although may not appear for months or even years after. When the symptoms of PTSD last for more than four weeks, result in you experiencing great distress, or they interfere with your work or home life, you may have diagnosable PTSD. 

There are four primary types of PTSD symptoms: 

  1. You relive the event, or have re-experiencing symptoms, which can include experiencing feelings of going through the event again, called a flashback, or encountering triggers that cause you to relive the event, which can be something you see, hear, smell, or otherwise encounter 
  2. Avoiding things that could remind you of the traumatic event, such as avoiding crowds or other social situations
  3. Having greater negative thoughts and feelings overall than prior to the trauma, including feeling numb, guilt or shame over the event, or fear of the world and a lack of trust due to the traumatic event
  4. Hyperarousal, or feeling on edge, which can result in difficulty concentrating, having a hard time falling asleep, or being startled, with this symptom leading to compensation through unhealthy behaviors like drugs or alcohol 

If you think you may have PTSD from your MST, you may qualify for a PTSD VA disability rating

Depression from Service-Related MST  

Depression is recognized as a serious mental illness for veterans, but is also noted as being highly treatable. The VA offers treatments for depression that include medicine to assist with depression and anxiety, alongside other symptoms. Psychotherapy, referred to by the VA as “talk therapy,” is also available to veterans to assist with the treatment of depression. 

The CDC notes that you may have depression when a sad mood persists for a long duration of time, and that sad mood in turn interferes with your normal, everyday functioning. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or anxious all the time or often
  • Losing interest in activities that were once fun
  • Feelings of irritability, frustration, or restlessness 
  • Eating more than usual or experiencing a drop in appetite 
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or with awakening too early or oversleeping 
  • Aches, pains, stomach problems, or headaches that are not improved through treatment
  • Feeling tired despite having slept well
  • Experiencing difficulty concentrating, making judgment calls, or recalling information
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty 
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm 

This information may apply to your depression or anxiety, however, it is essential that you seek out a diagnosis from a medical professional with the appropriate experience and qualifications. We have an in-house physician and network of medical experts to help get opinions in line for your claim.

Anxiety from Service-Related MST 

The National Institutes of Health define anxiety as worry that does not go away and can worsen over time. The symptoms of excessive worry that accompany anxiety can interfere with your ability to engage in everyday activities, including your performance at work, at school, and even in relationships. 

Anxiety is a disorder, and there are a number of anxiety disorders, including: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder 
  • Phobia-related disorders
  • Social anxiety disorder 

While each disorder has its own unique symptoms, what matters in terms of your anxiety VA rating is whether or not the symptoms get in the way of your daily life. The symptoms of anxiety overlap with depression somewhat and can include irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches, stomach aches, or muscle aches that are unexplained, and difficulty sleeping. 

Substance Abuse from Service-Related MST 

Veterans who have experienced MST may develop substance abuse problems as a form of coping with the traumatic experience. The VA provides counseling and other options to assist you with getting past your substance abuse issues, and any related current conditions may be included in your VA disability rating. 

VA will not assign a rating for substance abuse itself; however, substance abuse may be recognized as a manifestation of an underlying diagnosis such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety.

Connect with a Veterans Benefits Attorney for Assistance with Your MST VA Rating

If you or a loved one is suffering from a current condition linked to MST, VA disability benefits could be available, and we can help. To learn how, call us at 888-878-9350 or visit our site to schedule a free case evaluation.


Can you get VA disability for MST? 

You can file a VA disability claim related to your MST when you have a current diagnosis for a condition that is a resulting symptom of MST, including depression, anxiety, substance use, and physical symptoms. 

Can I get 100 percent VA disability due to MST?

The ratings of the symptoms and conditions that result from your MST will determine if the sum of your disabilities reaches 100 percent. If your VA-rated disabilities equal 70 percent or more and one is at least 40 percent, you could qualify for 100 percent disability compensation through TIDU. 

What evidence does the VA require for me to prove MST? 

The VA requires no evidence from you for you to receive medical and mental health care for any condition related to your MST. To collect on disabilities related to your MST, you’ll need to prove that the cause of those conditions is linked to your active service, which could include a traumatic experience of MST. 

How do I get 100 percent disability for MST?

Getting 100 percent disability for any condition recognized by the VA means that you are completely unable to engage in normal day-to-day life without assistance, and are completely unable to work. Your VA application needs to include sufficient information for the VA to recognize that your condition is linked to your active service, and that you are completely unable to work due to your service-related condition/s.