Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center
VA Services for MST Survivors
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the VA uses this month to raise awareness of Veterans who are survivors of military sexual trauma (MST).
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is sexual assault or sexual harassment that occurred during military service. It is not a diagnosis. It is an experience. MST has affected all genders, ages, ranks, branches and eras of service, racial/ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, and Veterans of various physical sizes and strengths.
Survivors frequently struggle with mental health symptoms and diagnoses, but people may be surprised to learn it can affect a Veteran’s physical health as well. They can experience gastrointestinal issues, have reproductive problems, or even have physical injuries as result of a sexual assault. It can affect a Veteran’s social, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
This year’s VA theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Creating Pathways to Healing: VA Services for MST Survivors. We often hear Veterans say they do not or cannot tell anyone, and they feel so alone. It is important for survivors of MST to know they are not alone. The VA can help! One Veteran that experienced MST wrote, “Work was my happy place, and I am no longer able to work. It has been very hard to find a way to deal with memories, flashbacks and nighttime hallucinations. I have been working to get better and knowing you are not the only one that feels this way is powerful.”One in four women and one in one-hundred men who use the VA report having experienced MST. The VA offers outpatient, inpatient, and residential services to assist Veterans who are recovering from an MST experience. Due to the growing number of male Veterans reporting MST experiences, the VA offers an MST group specifically for men who are survivors of sexual trauma.
Free MST-related care is offered to veterans even if they are not currently enrolled in the VA. They do not need to have reported the incident(s) when it happened or have other documentation that it occurred. It is not necessary for Veterans to have a VA disability rating, i.e., be “service connected,” in order to receive MST-related care. For further information on receiving a disability rating, please contact your local county service officer.
Some veterans with “other than honorable” discharges may be able to receive services related to MST as well. For further information on eligibility for VA care or MST-related care, please contact Enrollment and Eligibility at: 906-774-3300 x. 32810. Visit the VA website to learn more about MST: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp.Every VA healthcare facility has a designated person assigned as an MST Coordinator to assist veterans in obtaining this sensitive care. The MST Coordinator at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center is Sarita Gruszynski, LMSW. She can be reached by calling 1-800-215-8262, extension 32531.