MST, Social Media, and Establishing Service Connection for Veterans
If you read my most recent post on Veterans using the social media application Whisper to discuss PTSD, then you know that it’s not the only condition Veterans are making use of the app for lately. Posts regarding Military Sexual Trauma, which is closely associated with PTSD, have been appearing a lot more often. A lot of Veterans who have been sexually assaulted or raped while serving are taking to Whisper to discuss these situations. In my post regarding Whisper and PTSD I stated that I believed using this platform to discuss traumatic events was a great first step in seeking treatment. The same holds true for MST. For men and women who have been involved in a sexual assault or rape, using this platform can be a great start because the Veteran remains anonymous. Unlike the PTSD blog post though, I want to address the next steps in pursuing an MST claim, and how social media can play a part in that process.
Please Note: MST is a claim that is filed with PTSD. Usually the claim will read “PTSD to include Military Sexual Trauma.” Though PTSD and MST go together, we want to address them separately for the purpose of the blog. The end result will make it easier for individuals searching for MST information to find what they need.
In order to get more accurate information I had a discussion with Heather Vanhoose, our lead VA Attorney, to discuss what steps a Veteran pursuing MST needs to do for a successful claim. Heather is very passionate about MST cases. She has a lot of experience in arguing such cases, as well as evaluating them for representation.
Heather said one of the most important things any Veteran can do to service connect for MST is to seek treatment. Counseling through the VA or private doctor will help provide evidence for the VA. This will also help illustrate how the event or events are affecting you now. This needs to be established in order to show that your claim is chronic.
We realize that a lot of sexual assaults take place, but are not reported. Heather was quick to point out that this does not mean that you can’t service connect for MST. Instead you simply have to show how this affected you while serving. Heather stated that this can be done by showing markers from your time in service. For instance, if you had no disciplinary actions taken against you prior to the assault, and then had multiple write ups after, then this would be a marker. You were on one path prior to the assault, and then after you went a different direction. Heather went on to say that a lot of these assaults happen when someone is new to military service. In this case you can show what you were like in high school compared to your time in the military. An example would be if you were an honor student in high school but then had a lot of issues with your superiors in the military, it could be a sign of an assault.
Another marker described by Heather was MOS changes. If a Veteran served for a while, had one MOS, and then changed to another later on, it could be a sign of MST. A better example of this is if the Veteran had one MOS for a long period of time, and then changed several times after that first period, it would be a sign that something may have occurred.
When I said to Heather that I was writing this blog because of something I found in social media, she talked about how she has heard of Veterans using Facebook to find others who have been sexually assaulted. She pointed out one case in particular in which a Veteran used Facebook to find someone who served with him and was able to write about the assault. This in turn led to the favorable decision. Regardless if you find a community for your former unit, or simply find someone who served with you, their statements can make a world of difference in your case. Taking this a step further, finding other individuals who were sexually assaulted or raped by the same individual will not only be beneficial for your case, it can likely do a lot to help you cope with the Military Sexual Trauma.
Sexual assault, rape, and unwanted sexual attention occur for too often in today’s military. Too often it goes unreported and the perpetrators often don’t face disciplinary action. When I first started working for this firm I was shocked by the number of Veterans I spoke to who were involved in a Military Sexual Trauma. I was especially surprised by the amount of men who were either assaulted or raped while serving. Heather told me that this actually has to do with the fact that there are simply more men serving as a whole. It’s the reason why we personally see more men with claims than women. As whole though, when you adjust the numbers per capita, women are actually assaulted more often. Really the point I want to make is that it happens too much. There is a lot of national attention getting focused on MST now, and hopefully this will become a thing of the past very soon.
If you want to learn more about what our firm can do to assist you with a MST claim, give us a call for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form to be contacted by a member of our staff.