Both women and men can experience sexual harassment or sexual assault during their military service.
VA refers to these experiences as military sexual trauma, or MST. Like other types of trauma, MST can negatively impact a person’s mental and physical health, even many years later. Some problems associated with MST include:
- Disturbing memories or nightmares
- Difficulty feeling safe
- Feelings of depression or numbness
- Problems with alcohol or other drugs
- Feeling isolated from other people
- Problems with anger or irritability
- Problems with sleep
- Physical health problems
VA and MST
To help Veterans recover from military sexual trauma, VA provides free, confidential counseling and treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to experiences of MST. Service connection or disability compensation is not required to receive free treatment for conditions resulting from MST. The Veteran does not need to have reported the incidents when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred.
Every VA facility has a designated MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues. This coordinator advocates for the Veteran and can help find and access VA services and programs, state and federal benefits, and community resources.
Every VA facility has providers knowledgeable about treatment for the aftereffects of MST. Many have specialized outpatient mental health services focusing on sexual trauma. Vet Centers also have specially trained sexual trauma counselors.
Nationwide, there are programs that offer specialized sexual trauma treatment in residential or inpatient settings. These are programs for Veterans who need more intense treatment and support.