It’s unfortunate that many men and women experience sexual assault and sexual harassment during their military service. Too often, those who experienced military sexual trauma (MST) suffer alone and in silence—but that needn’t be the case: VA provides free care for Veterans recovering from MST.
The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) stands ready to help: Veterans can receive care for MST even if they are not eligible for other VA care, and no documentation of the MST experience is required. And while a Veteran can file a claim for disability compensation as a result of experiencing MST, it isn’t required—even though doing so is part of the recovery process for some Veterans.
Each VBA’s 56 regional offices staffs specially trained MST Coordinators – one male, one female. They stand ready to assist Veterans with their disability compensation claims related to MST. When the Veteran makes the decision to file a claim, they may choose a coordinator of either gender to help them get started with the process.
“Once Veterans who have had these experiences make the decision to seek help, MST coordinators are there to listen and assist them with their claims related to MST,” said Antoinette Rivera, MST Program Manager. “VBA is extremely sensitive to these situations and knows that each case is unique to the Veteran who has experienced these situations.”
In addition to having both male and female MST Coordinators in all 56 regional offices, VBA continues to provide aids in identifying who the MST Coordinators are—both online and in clearly visible signs in each facility.
“We understand that, for some Veterans, it can be a difficult decision to file, so our goal in addressing this priority is to provide an empathetic voice, helpful information, and consistency in our services,” Rivera added.
Veterans who’re not ready to seek in-person assistance may also find help here: www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp.
Lew Boone is the acting assistant director for outreach at VBA.