gettyimages 52222693 What to do if youre sexually assaulted in the military: Veterans

(Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images)

by Abigail Hartley

Were you sexually assaulted or harassed while you were in the military? Believe it or not, there are plenty of resources for you—even if you never came forward while you were active.

If you’re dealing with mental health issues because of what happened to you, you can claim something called Military Sexual Trauma (MST) with VA. By itself, MST doesn’t entitle you to disability benefits; however, if you can show that you have other issues related to your MST (depression, PTS, etc.), then those issues become a disability related to your military service.

There’s even a VA brochure detailing exactly what benefits an MST disability claim can make accessible to you, including “monthly non-taxable compensation, enrollment in the VA health care system, a 10-point hiring preference for federal employment, and other important benefits.”

If you have problems related to MST and you’re interested in filing a disability claim, this amazing step-by-step guide on the Outreach and Resource Services for Women Veterans (OARS) website will show you exactly what to do. Seriously, it even tells you how to answer each question on each form.

But wait, there’s more: if you made a claim for MST before December 2011 and got denied, you can request that your case be re-evaluated because of improvements to the system that have happened since then. Contact your regional VA, call 1-800-827-1000, or use http://www.eBenefits.va.gov to get started.

Not interested in filing a disability claim? You can still get help and treatment from VA, free of charge—even if you otherwise don’t qualify for VA healthcare! Just call the VA nearest you and ask to speak to the MST coordinator. Or, here’s a list of every MST coordinator in the country and their email addresses, if you’d rather reach out that way.

No matter how long ago your trauma was, it’s never too late to reach out and get help. You are the farthest thing from alone. There are people out there just waiting to help you.

If you or a veteran you know are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to someone at the Veterans Crisis Line.

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