Changes to MST-related PTSD claims processing means more help for Veterans


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Women are disproportionately likely to have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault during their military service. This trauma, referred to by VA as military sexual trauma (MST), can result in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a cascading impact on all aspects of life. (Click here for more information on military sexual trauma and treatments available for resulting conditions from VA.)

Due to increased awareness of this problem and the challenges of providing corroborating evidence in many cases, VA has taken a number of steps over the years to better serve MST survivors applying for disability compensation for conditions caused by MST, beginning with relaxing evidentiary standards in 2002. Because events involving sexual trauma are not always officially reported, VA looks for “markers” (i.e., signs, events or circumstances) that provide an indication the traumatic event happened, which include but are not limited to records from rape crisis or mental health counseling centers, tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, statements from family members or roommates, transfer requests, deterioration in work performance, episodes of depression or anxiety without an identifiable cause and relationship issues – a longer list is available here.

In response to an identified gap in the percent of claims granted for PTSD caused by MST compared to other causes, such as combat-related PTSD, additional changes were made. These include conducting special training for VA regional office personnel who process MST-related claims beginning in 2011 and offering specialized training to medical examiners who provide input on these cases in 2012.

How effective have those efforts been? The table below shows the percent of PTSD issues granted for MST-related and non-MST related claims. In FY11, there is a substantial gap: 59.5% of non-MST related PTSD claims were granted, compared to only 35.6% of MST-related PTSD claims, a nearly 24 point gap. Three years later, in FY14, the gap had shrunk to less than six points, with grant rates of 54.1% and 48.5% respectively. So far this fiscal year, the gap is only around one point, with grant rates of 54.6% for non-MST related claims and 53.4% for MST-related claims.

Impact of Changes to MST-Related PTSD Claims Processing

The dramatic narrowing of the gap, from over 20 points six years ago to virtually indistinguishable today, shows the success of those efforts. The Veterans Benefits Administration and the Center for Women Veterans will continue to analyze data to sustain these improvements in equitable decision-making.

For help with disability compensation related to MST, read more here and contact the MST coordinator at your local Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office.

Author

Kayla Williams

- Kayla Williams is the director of VA's Center for Women Veterans.

Comments

  1. Monique    

    Really? Because I was straight told since I had no evidence they were denying my MST claim, then added PTSD to my diagnosis list. That was in 2016.

  2. Devin    

    Get a Veteran Service Officer to help you with your claim. http://www.nacvso.org. Good Luck.

    1. Del Lillibridge    

      I was told the same thing just this month.

    2. Sally McMurray    

      Same as civilian life. The old school thoughts that we are supposed to just shut up and go away, yet the numbers continue to increase…figures huh? That is why I do not file for anything anymore or bring it to their attention because it just don’t matter to them. I gave up my military career because of this crap! Good luck to you sister, you are in my prayers.

  3. Terrell Laverne Dickerson    

    When I asked my immediate supervisor in the military why hadn’t I received my upgrade to E3 like the guys I attended school with he told me “When I (redacted) my help my (redacted) will get help’ I knew it was time for me to get out of this man’s Army and I did.

    1. Deetra Frost    

      I agree wholeheartedly with you, this was the main reason I inadvertently left the military, but before I left, I put in a request chit for some time off, to try and see if I could get myself together, it worked for a little when, but I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I believe you, felt your pain.

  4. Ronald Wilson    

    I was denied compensation for ptsd or agent orange they said I had no out signs ,

  5. William Filippo jr    

    In 2008 I was admitted to the VA psychological ward due to suicidal ideology and depression. This was the first time I reported the MST. My claim was denied so I apealed the decision. I was told just recently that some alleged paperwork was sent to me and I did not reply so my case was dismissed, however over the years I called to check the status and was always told to be patient for they were busy.
    Two months ago is when I found out that they dismissed me.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated

    1. Sally McMurray    

      I wonder sometimes about the geniuses that are in control over this decision-making. They are real rocket scientists! I am sorry that you all had to go through this William, Ronald, and Terrell

    2. Jerry Arroyo    

      Sorry for my English! You have to go to your Congressman Office. They have personnel and tools to help you. You are not alone in this fight, we are many dealings with the system. They’re helping me.

    3. Nikki    

      Same thing happened to me because the DAV was handling my claim. I found out that they are not held accountable for any claims they eff up AND THEY EFF UP A LOT OF THEM. It works to the benefit of the VA because the claims get denied, no accountability, then the claim is tainted with the denial. DON’T LET ANYONE PROCESS YOUR CLAIM EXCEPT YOUR STATE VETERAN’S AFFAIRS OFFICE – not the DAV, not the PVA – NO ONE. If someone in the state va office messes up your claim, heads will roll – believe it. They have a straight line phone call to washington and they use it to get info on your claim. If the DAV or PVA or ANY of those not for profit organizations manage your claim, it can easily get messed up and can cost you your claim for good. As for me, it delayed my claim 8 years and I am still fighting for the remainder of the claim – it’s been 10 years AND I HAD PROOF IN MY FILE. I REPORTED IT, I WAS MEDICALLY EXAMINED, I WAS GIVEN MENTAL HEALTH CARE, AND I WAS GIVEN LEAVE.
      They do NOT care – it’s all about the money – they do anything to avoid granting a claim.

  6. Mary Dianne DiBenedetto    

    This is an excellent article on the changes that have occurred within the VA system in awarding compensation for PTSD due to MST. There is little knowledge or dialogue concerning the long term effects of sexual assault, harassment within the military culture. It is still a new and evolving area. As a trauma clinician and legal liaison to the VA for our veteran population, I have found that many of our female veterans have been treated fairly and with care and compassion. It is taking longer within the active military as the laws involving a soldier LOD or behavior are treated differently. Military culture and chain of command continue to be a problem; however, the DOD stands firmly on compassionate treatment of these special cases.
    Unfortunately, not knowing the terminology used in your claim can be a barrier to compensation through the VA. MST is not a DSM-V categorized mental illness and as such a claim must be for PTSD, Major Depression or another diagnosis.

    Our clinical practice has dealt with VHA, VBA and the BVA on several MST cases that resulted in PTSD. I have found that the Department of Veterans Affairs works hard to keep up with changes; implement those changes applicable to the law and in treatment. I am proud that our clinical practice has worked over 30 years serving the veteran population in our area. Thank you for the data sets and a job well done. We are pleased to support our veteran population.
    Respectfully,
    Mary Dianne DiBenedetto, PA, CCTP
    (redacted)
    Savannah, Georgia

  7. Jodi Witt-Bailey    

    Monique, the same thing happened to me. I had been to the police, CID at the time of the event and also behavioral health afterward. Denied.

  8. Kim Harris    

    Hmmmm. I got a similar response. They never even asked me about it during my evaluation.]]

  9. Tiffany Eren Leighton    

    How they going to correct my claim? It affects the “whole” life of a women.

    1. LC    

      They don’t care. They let these people stand in ranks everyday knowing they destroy young women and men’s lives because of control..that almost never has to do with sex…the Armed Forces are full of them…some are leaders…women and some men suffer until thry realise…that it’s okay that after 20 years you are no longer trapped in the places where you were held captive and what was taken from you is still yours. The VA/govt is not equipped tO know that when we women took an oath..they sent us out into the abuse.Lets hope this is change we can feel.

  10. Penny Marshall    

    I call BS. I’m still currently fighting my case. I’ve had DAV, The Vet Center, Counselpersons (2 of them in 2 states) and others trying to help me for 30+ years now. Last claim with friend and family statements, military health/mental records, civilian records and more was sent to them for last 2 years and they STILL deny claim. VA and the “good ol boy” standards still exist and this article and the VA “new” policies are COMPLETE BS!!!

    1. Sally McMurray    

      LC,
      What they need is all the victims and survivors to come together and get very loud so they have no choice but to hear us and take these maters more serious. We should not have to put upo with this same persecutuion with the govt as those who victimized us.

  11. Donna Audette    

    Really…! Just because you announced that the system is better doesn’t mean it is true. You have to fight with VA and these markers you talk about are a joke. Your word and your family’s letters, are tossed aside. When you have someone who has authority over you and try’s to get you killed for two and half years and you get brushed off by the VA
    And have to fight and relive the pain over again. When people ask why didn’t you report it your can of worms are opened again. When you have three men’s word against one women who do think is going to win.

  12. frank enfinger    

    I was treated by the va for over a year for ptsd for being beaten by some guys who thought I had told on them for doing drugs,yet I was denied my claim because I did not over eat,or under eat,but they ignore the fact that I started drinking and smoking and I have a vso so it was just not that one time either it was the whole last year,i was attacked while in my bunk and had a knife pull on me ,I was told to keep my mouth shut or I would die,i was scared so I kept my my shut

  13. Sally McMurray    

    Donna, I am with ya girl! Its like being on trial and having to relive everything over and over again, yet never taken seriously. This is why less than 10% of all women never report their abuse. I hate this sh*** Women have always had to put up not only the abuse, but the lack of acknowledgment, “word against word BS” (which is just an excuse), having to find evidence (what about those who suppress their memories and can only remember some details to their abuse or harrassment? I good psychologist specializing in trauma can tell, yet they do not have much faith in that either. I wonder why we even put ourselves through this and wonder if it is even worth it. After thousands of years, you would think we would have a little more value than a cow. It is hopeless!!!

  14. Bryce Maddock    

    I would really appreciate your looking into the Phoenix, AZ regional benefits office. I have been fighting for a correct rating of PTSD due to MST. The SAVAHCS comp and pen doesn’t read medical records. They write what they want regardless of my medical records of 4 and a half yrs of mental health treatment, multiple suicide attempts, inpatient stays. All documented! I have a “LEGAL” diagnosis of PTSD due to MST. This has been going on since 2004. Phoenix refuses to rate women for PTSD due to MST. The bar graph does not include Phoenix! I am not the only MST survivor that is going thru this. I know some that didn’t make it. I struggle every day.

  15. CAROLE ROLPHE    

    I CALL BS TOO…I am 75…I submitted the FIRST time in 2004 (was in from 60-63 and was raped! Didn’t even KNOW I could get disability for that!!!) and was denied…submitted AGAIN in 2011…same paperwork….denied…AGAIN in 2014 WITH SAME PAPERWORK and APPROVED!!! WHY? Because MTDVA/AMERICAN LEGION did not send ONE LETTER that they had in their file…one letter from my sister and then when I was approved I only got 2 mos retro instead of the 10 YEARS they owed me!! Yes I have been appealing ever since!!! IT’S A JOKE!!! Montana says the PEOPLE ARE GONE and VA says IT’S NOT OUR FAULT! SO I GUESS IT’S MY FAULT!!! I should have known better than to TRUST the “American Legion” right????

    1. Bee Holmes    

      So they approved you for PTSD due to MST? What’s their total for that like 20% tops?

  16. Lisa roberts    

    Just more cute talk & writing so that they appear to be proactive and getting things accomplished in the Public view. When you peel off the top layer of this BS, you will find all of us that have been denied; our evidence just tossed to the side as if it is worthless and annoying to them; and reliving the trauma of the events every time we are asked to explain why feel there is an issue & “entitled to file a VA benefit claim” for same. Just Argh!!!

  17. Betsy Hennington    

    I concur with the above comment. I have been trying to resolve issues with the VA such 2006 and I am simply tired. I have even written a congressman. So keep trying and never give up. Hopefully, the truth will prevail.

  18. ARNOLD MILLER CABRAL    

    Remember that Veterans who is Disabled Veteran has PTSD but never saw Combat needs to have PTSD Meeting at every Veteran Mental Clinic no excuses plus Spread the word i am serious about…Thanks

  19. Christina Thundathil    

    This article is a damn lie. VA calls VICTIMS liars and say we asked for it. I have this in writing. The court’s are inconsistent with male MST vs female MST. I read case after case where men claimed MAR had no proof but were approved. Females claiming MST with proof are called liars. The VA works with DOD in retaliation against female survivors. I hate the VA.

  20. Tammy McCarty    

    When I recieved my MST rating the VA decided that because I had been raped as a child (which had kept me out of several jobs in the military) had a 10% rating for PTSD they gave me a 30% rating, then subtracted 10%. Now if I was suffering from PTSD prior to the Air Force why did they let me serve in the first place?

  21. Me my self and I    

    wow I wasted my time her because some one did not like the great information

  22. liz    

    I am glad to read and see your table of recordings; but this is not reality. Not only did I suffer MST/PTSD; which I finally did receive a C&P exam and rating.
    But during a mandatory Class at a VA Facility, I again was sexually assaulted/harassed by another participant and the Instructor totally Sugar Coated the incident, never filed an incident report. I can no longer even enter the VA Clinic due to the PTSD. I have requested Veteran’s Choice to receive a Primary Care Dr. in my Community and that has been denied. Now where I am I supposed to receive the care I have Earned after Serving and life long injuries? VA does not want to grant Veteran’s Choice because this takes away money they can use as descritionary spending later if the funding is not used for Veterans Choice applicants. This amount of money this year alone is $135 Million. Many Administrators will be handing out Bonuses to those that denied Veteran’s Choice and can show how they saved funds. This is corruption at the highest level and everyone is scared to use the Whisleblowers website because they need their jobs, regardless of the new Accountability Law. Who do I reach out to for help?

  23. David Jose Robinson    

    The US Army put me in jail, Ft Leavenworth, when I was 18 years old. After I served my sentence my case was overturned by the court of military review, and I was found not guilty. I applied for PTSD and was denied. They said the service never put me in a stressful environment. And while I was in Leavenworth I was sexually abused. Do I have to put in another claim?

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