Women Veterans Health Care
Military Sexual Trauma
Military sexual trauma (MST) is sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service. MST includes any sexual activity in which you were involved against your will or when you were unable to say "no," such as:
- Being pressured into sexual activities
- Sexual contact or activities without your consent like while asleep or intoxicated
- Being physically forced to have sex
- Unwanted sexual touching or grabbing, or unwanted sexual advances
- Comments about your body or sexual activities you found threatening
MST can happen while on or off duty, or on or off base. Perpetrators of MST (the people who commit MST) can be anyone — men or women, military personnel or civilians, superiors or subordinates in the chain of command, strangers, friends, or intimate partners.
Veterans of all gender identities, racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, ages, branches, and eras of service have experienced MST. Unfortunately, experiences of MST are most common among women Veterans. About 1 in 3 women Veterans tell their VA health care provider they experienced sexual harassment or assault while in the military.
Although MST can be a life-changing event, survivors are remarkably resilient. Some Veterans who experienced MST recover on their own. For many, however, the experience of MST may continue to affect their health, even many years later.
What services does VA provide for Veterans who experienced MST?
VA offers free treatment for mental and physical health conditions related to MST and stands ready to support you in whatever way will help you best. This could include learning more about the effects of MST, treatment that helps you cope with how the experience of MST is impacting your life, or, for individuals who are ready, treatment that involves discussing your experiences in more depth. You may always ask for a provider of a specific gender if it would make you feel more comfortable. Note that you may be able to receive free MST-related care even if you are not eligible for other VA care.
MST-related services available through VA includes:
- An MST Coordinator available at every VA who can answer any questions you have about MST-related services and can help you find and access VA services and programs
- Free, private counseling and treatment at every VA medical center and many VA community-based outpatient clinics
- Free MST-related counseling at Vet Centers
- Residential (live-in) or inpatient programs for more intensive mental health treatment and support. Some facilities have separate residential programs for women only. All residential programs have separate sleeping areas for men and women.
How do I access MST-related services at VA?
If you experienced MST, know that you are not alone and that it is not your fault. VA is here to support you. People can recover from trauma, and VA has services to help you move forward in your life. Eligibility for VA's free, MST-related care is expansive:
- You don't need to have reported the incident when it happened or have any documentation that it occurred.
- You may be able to receive MST-related care even if you are not eligible for other VA care.
- Although this page refers to "Veterans," most former service members with an Other Than Honorable (OTH) or uncharacterized (entry-level) discharge can also receive MST-related care. Former National Guard and Reserve members with federal active duty service or a service-connected disability who were discharged under honorable conditions or with an OTH discharge are also eligible; the service-connected disability does not need to be related to your experiences of MST. Current service members can also receive services related to MST, although for some types of services, a Department of Defense referral may be required.
- Veterans and former service members with an OTH discharge don't need to have a VA service-connected disability to receive MST-related care.
Here's how to access VA's MST-related services:
- If you have a VA health care provider, consider telling them you experienced MST. Your provider can offer referrals for care and provide support.
- Call your nearest VA medical center and ask to speak to the MST Coordinator.
- Contact a Vet Center and ask to speak with someone about MST-related counseling.
If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also help you with issues such as:
- Enrolling in VA health care if you have not already
- Setting up a medical appointment in your area
- Answering questions about eligibility (including questions about disability ratings) and other VA benefits like employment, education, and home loans
WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.
Can I get disability compensation (monthly payments) or other benefits from VA related to my experiences of MST?
Veterans may be able to receive compensation for conditions that started or got worse in the line of duty. This includes physical or mental health effects or disabilities related to MST. Explore disability eligibility here. If you have questions, a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) representative at your nearest regional office can explain more. Find your nearest regional office.
Or get help applying for disability compensation by:
- Read this fact sheet to learn about disability compensation for conditions related to MST.
- Talk to an MST Outreach Coordinator at your nearest VBA Regional Office. You can ask to talk to a female or male Coordinator.
Where can I find more help and resources on MST?
- Beyond MST Mobile App: Free, secure and private self-help mobile app created specifically to support the health and well-being of those who have experienced MST. You do not need to create an account or be in treatment to use the app. Any personal information entered in the app is not shared with anyone, including VA.
- Additional resources, brochures, and fact sheets are available to help MST survivors learn more about MST and VA's free MST-related services.
- The "Find Local Support" section of the Make the Connection website can help you locate resources. Or, try the program locators on the RAINN or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center websites.
- If you are struggling and need help right now, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit http://www.veteranscrisisline.net. You can call, text, or chat online with caring, qualified VA responders. Many of them are Veterans or family members of Veterans.
If you're experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness:
- Contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for free, confidential help 24/7. A trained VA counselor will offer information about VA homeless programs, health care, and other services in your area.
- Visit our website to learn about VA programs for Veterans who are homeless.
- Call or visit your local VA Community Resource and Referral Center. Our staff can help you find non-VA resources you may qualify for in your community.
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