Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Can I get VA 100% for PTSD due to MST? Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disability triggered by a traumatic event. When the average person thinks of a traumatic military event, they often think of combat. However, some military threats come from within our own ranks. Military Sexual Trauma, or MST, refers to experiences of sexual assault or sexual harassment during military service. According to the Department of Defense, about 13,000 women and 7,500 men experienced an MST in 2018.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST)
Military Sexual Trauma includes any sexual activity where a service member is involved against his or her will. He or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied better treatment in exchange for sex), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other MST experiences include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening, offensive remarks about a person’s body or sexual activities; and threatening and unwelcome sexual advances. PTSD is the most common mental health diagnosis related to MST. You may be eligible for VA 100% if your PTSD is due to MST.
Service Connection PTSD due to MST
Before VA will assign a 100% rating for PTSD due to MST, it must first determine whether it is related to service. In other words, VA must first grant service connection before it will assign a rating.
There are 4 requirements to prove service connected PTSD due to MST
- current diagnosis,
- in-service event, disease or injury,
- medical nexus between the first 2 elements, and
- credible supporting evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred.
Challenge of Proving MST
Most victims are not eager to report MST to their superiors. This is especially true if a superior committed the MST. VA is well aware of this. Absent an official law enforcement record, how does one prove PTSD due to MST?
Evidence Specific to MST
Instead of requiring a smoking gun, VA looks for credible supporting evidence. Credible supporting evidence of MST includes:
- In-service pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases,
- Statements from clergy, family members, roommates, or
- Evidence of behavior changes following the claimed assault.
Disability Help Group Case Study
A 26 year-old female veteran of the Marines reported a military sexual assault to her civilian priest. However, she did not report it to superiors for fear of retaliation. The assailant was her commanding officer. Within a year of discharge, she filed a claim for PTSD due to MST. VA denied the claim for lack of credible supporting evidence. She hired us to assist with her appeal. Our representatives obtained a lay statement from her priest and submitted it to VA. In addition, Disability Help Group sent specific portions of her military personnel records. The personnel records showed that all her Article 15 punishments happened after the MST. VA found the priest’s statement credible, and the Article 15s lined up after the approximate date of the MST. Based on this credible supporting evidence, VA granted the claim for PTSD due to MST.
Rating PTSD due to MST
After VA grants service connection for PTSD due to MST, it must determine the correct rating. To do so, VA consults the Schedule of Ratings.
Schedule of Ratings
The Schedule of Ratings breaks down disabilities into different categories. Each category contains groups of medical problems. For example, PTSD due to MST is found the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. Depending on the symptoms, a veteran may receive either 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%.
100% Rating: Total occupational and social impairment from PTSD due to MST
- gross impairment in thought processes or communication;
- persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior;
- persistent danger of hurting self or others;
- intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene);
- disorientation to time or place;
- memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name
70% Rating: Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood
- suicidal ideation;
- obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities;
- speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant;
- near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively;
- impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence);
- spatial disorientation;
- neglect of personal appearance and hygiene;
- difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a work-like setting);
- inability to establish and maintain effective relationships.
50% Rating: Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity
- flattened affect;
- circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech;
- panic attacks more than once a week;
- difficulty in understanding complex commands;
- impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks);
- impaired judgment;
- impaired abstract thinking;
- disturbances of motivation and mood;
- difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships.
30% Rating: Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal)
- depressed mood,
- panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events).
10% = Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms
- decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational; tasks only during periods of significant stress; or
- symptoms controlled by continuous medication.
0% Rating: A mental condition has been formally diagnosed
- Symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning; or
- to require continuous medication.
You May Be Entitled to VA 100% PTSD due to MST
The type, severity, and duration of a veteran’s symptoms will vary based on a number of factors. For example, race, religion, and sexual orientation can affect the impact of MST. Whether the MST happened once or was repeated over time may affect how long the symptoms last. If your PTSD due to MST has caused any of the symptoms in the 100% range, then you may be entitled to VA 100%.
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