VA Disability Claim for Military Sexual Trauma

by Jen

Jen writes:

I served from 1993-2001 in the Army Reserves. While I was in AIT. I was sexually assaulted by a Sgt. - basically raped at knife point and threatened if I ever told anyone I would be dishonorably discharged because I was drinking under age. So I was brutally raped and sodomized.

. . .

I tried to forget everything, but I just could not. I started drinking like a fish, and turned totally different. Then I thank God that my mind started to take it all and submerge it.

I developed PTSD, severe anxiety attacks, no sleep, afraid to leave my house. I was not able to maintain a job. Now I have night terrors, PTSD, screaming fits, and the nightmares are so vivid. I relive this every night.

SO, I finally came forward to the VA and made a claim over the phone. That somehow disappeared. I called again and was mailed paperwork. I hand delivered the paperwork start of the claim to Newington, VA . They dated and stamped it. They lost that, too.

I was about to lose all hope and then someone gave me the name of the American Legion rep to take over the case. He is in charge now, and told me they do not have the earlier cases - they were closed. Now they need more information.

I did not go to the psychiatrist, but I will be going asap. I need to get this done and follow through. I want the nightmares over.

Please help me - all I get now are medications. I am getting help from Senator Blumenthal. I wrote to the President. I am now being seen for MST (Military Sexual Trauma) treatment only. I need the full care. I am going to fill out the information again. Make copies and give to my lawyer. I am part of American Legion. Someone told me it is best to use DAV.

I went from a bright person to an alcoholic, pill popper etc. I was honorably discharged. I am one day shy of being able to get the full benefits.

Does anyone know how long it takes to go through this process of MST, PTSD, Panic attacks, severe sleep apnea? I also hurt my knee pretty bad as well, and my back got messed up. These are all being considered for my claims for disability. I am not sure how that goes. I have a 6 year old son. Does anyone know how the disability rating is done? How long does these take to go through?

I am scared to death I might hurt my son during my night terrors. He hears me scream, but I don't wake up until a few minutes. I almost hit him once. He does not need to see this, but he also knows mommy is getting better. My son’s father is someone I have known since I was 13. Thank God, otherwise he would have left me a long time ago.

I am using my VRAP to go to school to keep me occupied and I am doing well. SO that is the plus, and my son is my biggest hope.

As far as bills, they are piling up quick. I know the feeling. I have to pay my car insurance. I live in CT and have oil heat. I have exhausted all options. So I will do what I can and I’m waiting on the Navy-Marine funds. They are going to help with rental, clothing, fuel gas, and electric thank goodness. I am already out of heating oil. So I am waiting to get paid, and get about 200 dollars worth (which is 50 gallons) until I get the help from Navy Marines Fund.

Any help or suggestions
from anyone would be most helpful.


Jen, Your story is very troubling on a number of levels. I’ve edited out part of your story to help protect your privacy

First, thank you for your service.

I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you, and that you’ve been suffering for so long. But I’m glad that you’ve decided to get help to deal with these issues.

I hope you will take advantage of the counseling component of the MST program, to help you talk through and process what happened to you.

From a legal standpoint, you really need the assistance of an attorney familiar with the VA disability claims process. Yes, the DAV and American Legion will have members who are familiar with the process, but based on some of the things you have said, I believe you need legal guidance in submitting your claim.

It is crucial to the success of your claim that it be presented in the proper light, and properly substantiated. It is also important that you say certain things in a certain way. And that you not say certain things that might adversely affect your claim. There are times when something can be explained in a way that helps you, or in a way that hurts you. You need to make sure your claim is done properly. To provide you with the best possible chance of success with your claim, make sure you find an attorney experienced in VA disability claims.

There are several groups around the country providing free legal services to veterans needing to file a VA disability claim. Call your local bar association and ask if they have such a program, and if so, to give you a recommendation to one of the participating attorneys. If not, contact the following organizations.

You’ll find some local Connecticut resources at the bottom of this page.

Also try:

When Duty Calls, a pro bono program of law firm Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice

The National Veterans Legal Service Project - Click on the tab that says "Veteran" or "What We Do" for more information

National Organization of Veterans' Advocates - Explains why legal representation is important. Click the "Attorneys & Agents" link to find attorneys in your area who participate. If there's not one near you, that's OK. Call one that's listed, see if they'll help you, and if not, ask if they know of someone in your area who will.

If you are a member of a church community, make an appointment to talk with your pastor. He or she is specially trained in counseling and can help you work through these issues.

Jen, I realize you don't have access to most base resources, but for the benefit of a military member or spouse in a similar situation who may be reading this, I have another recommendation to make.

Go see the chaplain. Even if you're not a churchgoer or a "religious person," the chaplain is specially trained in counseling, and you can count on his confidentiality. He or she may also know of special local resources that are available to help you.

I'm also concerned about your need for heating oil. The Department of Health and Human Services has a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - check out their web site and see if you would be eligible.

And please, Jen, come back here and let us know how you're doing, or if you need help with something else. I would also appreciate a report from you about what kind of help you received from the various places I've recommended. Without feedback, it's impossible to know whether these groups are actually providing the needed help, and if not, there's no need to continue recommending them.

Best wishes.

Comments for VA Disability Claim for Military Sexual Trauma

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Complete Healing for Military Sexual Trauma Victims
by: Rev Oscar Rivera

Jen, thank you for your military service.

I'm truly sorry you had such a terrible experience, especially at the hands of another service member. Unfortunately, this is a problem in the military, just as in the rest of society.

I served in the US Army 1990-1994. After a nine-year break in service I returned in 2003 as a Chaplain Assistant in the Air Force Reserves. In 14 years of military involvement I have seen, heard, and learned about the needs and challenges of the military community. I have been serving military members and their families through Armed Forces Ministry since 2009.

I‘m happy that you are reaching out for help. Janet has given you good legal and personal perspective here. Hopefully, I can offer some additional benefit.

Your story indicates you've had natural responses to an un-natural situation.

I want to invite you to visit a few pages that I have written to help those victimized by sexual assault.

Sexual assault requires initial response. The sooner the initial response takes place, the better the opportunity to stop the perpetrator from doing it to someone else. Sooner is also better for the victim, as they will be able to start their healing journey sooner than later.
Armed Forced Sexual Assault

It is also critical for a victim to have a strong support system. The people around you have to understand what you are dealing with if they are going to be able to stick with you through the challenges you face as a result of the assault. That requires them to become informed. Many well meaning family members, friends, and professionals may be at risk of making your situation worse if they don’t know how to support and assist you. However, if you understand what they should be thinking about while they are trying to assist you, it may help you regardless of how well or poorly informed they actually are. It is also good for you to understand some of the struggles people who are closest to you may be going through.

I believe with my whole heart the healing you are seeking requires another dimension, which is too often overlooked. Regardless of what you may think or believe about God at this point in your life, I encourage you to consider what you are up against. Seek understanding of how God is really the only one who can make you whole again. Please take a few minutes and read this page. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I pray that you are able to grab hold of the true hope and healing you need. God has good things available for you and your son. He alone can take damaged goods and make them more beautiful and valuable than before the damage was done.

In His service,
Rev. Oscar Rivera
Armed Forces Ministry

MST Trauma Follow Up
by: Jen

I appreciate all the feedback. I have joined the DAV on the website. I am part of the American legion as a paying member.

One great thing is Senator Blumenthal's office was able to have me get seen by a PCP, and I need PT, blood work done and I will be seeing the psychiatrist.

Senator Blumenthal personally called me and said "Hang in there, we will get this resolved for you." They have.

As for oil heating issue, especially being in Connecticut, I have already used Operation Fuel and the first one in November, Army Strong helped me out as well in CT.

I am going on Monday to make sure that Navy Marines fund is able to get going on the oil. There was concern, because how is it possible to go through $350 of oil, which is 100 gallons, in less than 14 days?

I keep the thermostat 68 degrees and 70 at night. The person who lives on the 3rd floor has not bought oil in over 1 year. She uses a self contained small kerosene heater, which works for her. I live in on 2nd floor.

Right now I am using the electric stove and my dryer, which is in the kitchen of my apartment. I do thank God for that. It has been keeping my house at 67 degrees for the past 2 weeks.

The lady from Army Strong cannot help me with anymore of the fuel, but she ended up digging up information on the landlord which is an older gentlemen 75 yrs old. He was supposed to have the electrical outlets fixed 2 years ago and have the oil tanks re maintenance. I have a guy coming to check on it for free thank God to let me know what seems to be the problem with the oil heater.

As far as Operation Fuel I have already used that up as well. If anyone knows of anything else, please let me know. I reside in CT.

One last thing I wanted to let you guys know is that I wrote a letter to the President via email. He got the ball rolling and has given the Disability claims area no more than 6 months to give me my disability rating. My attorney from the American Legion is the one that told me.

I got a letter from the Director of the Newington VA apologizing and stating he will help me anyway possible.

I want to let you all know that without God I would not be here, without Him by my side every moment. I am and I will take back the POWER those men took away from me. My son is sleeping in his own room now. I am not going to take the mini press either. I need to deal with these emotions finally once and for all.

If anyone has any information in regards to the oil assistance, please leave a message. Thanks so much again. I will keep you all up to date.

God Bless

Jen, thanks for following up. If Senator Blumenthal and the President both got involved, that should certainly help get the VA issues resolved.

I hope you're able to get the heating oil issue resolved soon. Sounds like maybe there's a leak somewhere? It's much too cold to have no heat!

Stay warm, and let us know how you're doing.

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