Human Rights Watch recently issued a report on the survivors of military sexual trauma (MST), and their treatment after reporting the assault. (Here: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/us0516_militaryweb_1.pdf ) Although recent reforms have improved the way that the military responds to victims of sexual assault, many of those who were assaulted were forced out of the military in retaliation for reporting. Sometimes, survivors who have posttraumatic stress disorder, and who respond to their assault with decreased performance and/or alcohol or drug use, will be given a bad conduct discharge. Others are forcibly discharged with a general discharge under honorable conditions, along with a diagnosis of a personality disorder or other mental health problem that they do not have.
If you’re one of those veterans who have experienced MST, there are a few things you can do:
1. If you were given a bad conduct discharge, and you were suffering from the effects of the assault and/or PTSD, you may ask for your discharge to be upgraded. The National Organization for Veterans Advocates is a great resource.
2. If you are seeking treatment for PTSD as a result of MST and were given a discharge for a “personality disorder,” it is very important that you find a psychologist or other mental health professional willing to do a full psychological examination. Personality disorders, by their very definition, are resistant to change, and if you currently do not have a personality disorder, it’s unlikely that you ever did.
3. Gather as much evidence as you can. PTSD based on personal assault, like MST, may be proven with a number of different kinds of evidence. Reports to friends or family members, letters you wrote, emails or other electronic sources, diaries or journals, poor performance reviews, etc. A visit to a chaplain, a rape crisis center, or other place can help substantiate your claim, too.
If you need assistance with your claim for service connection, or you are interested in an increased evaluation for PTSD or other related trauma and stressor disorders, please contact our office for a free consultation.