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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rating Military Sexual Trauma (MST) for Military Disability

The VA uses the term Military Sexual Trauma (MST) when referring to any sexual harassment or assault that occurs while an individual is serving in the military. A “traumatic event” is defined as any event in which a person experiences circumstances that conflict with their understanding of what is right and good or which involves being forced into situations or activities against one’s will. 

Military Sexual Trauma could range from negative treatment or attitudes relating to a person’s gender to full-on sexual abuse, and it can happen to both men and women. It can also include being forced into sexual situations due to threats of punishment or promises of rewards (faster promotions, etc.).

Rating Military Sexual Trauma for Military Disability can be rather difficult and confusing. In and of itself, Military Sexual Trauma is not a disability since it is just an event or experience, but it can potentially cause mental or physical conditions that could develop into very serious disabilities.

The VASRD, the law that determines how conditions are rated for DoD Disability and VA Disability, does not give a military disability rating just for experiencing Military Sexual Trauma. Instead, ratings are given for each of the medical conditions that it causes.

The most common conditions caused by Military Sexual Trauma are Mental Disorders, including PTSD, Depression, etc. Physical conditions could also occur depending on the type of traumatic event. These could include physical wounds, sexually transmitted diseases, and more.

Each condition caused by Military Sexual Trauma can be rated independently as long as they are definitely separate and distinct from one another. The laws state that a single symptom can only be rated once, so if two conditions are technically diagnosed, but each cause similar symptoms, then only one can be rated. For example, a person may be diagnosed with both PTSD and Depression, but since Depression is a very common symptom of PTSD, then a rating for PTSD would already cover the Depression. It cannot be rated by itself.

When trying to determine how to rate the conditions caused by Military Sexual Trauma, it is standard to rate one Mental Disorder, and then any other conditions, like STDs, that are separate and distinct. Just remember that if a rating for one condition already covers another, then both cannot be rated separately.

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