Press Releases

Kuster Helps Reintroduce Legislation To Expand Care and Benefits for Victims of Military Sexual Trauma

**Kuster co-sponsored a previous version of this legislation in the 116th Congress**


Washington, D.C. — Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02), founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, helped reintroduce the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act of 2021. This legislation would expand health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for victims of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).


Military Sexual Trauma, or MST, is used to refer to sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service. MST includes any sexual activity that a servicemember is involved with against their will.


“Our servicemembers put themselves in harm’s way for our country, and it is appalling that so many of our men and women in uniform face Military Sexual Trauma (MST),” said Rep. Kuster. “While we expand and advance efforts to end sexual violence within our Armed Forces and at our military installations, it is essential we ensure servicemembers have the health care and benefits they need from the VA to recover and move on. I’m proud to help introduce this legislation to raise awareness about MST amongst military members and their families and help survivors get the benefits and services they deserve.”


This legislation would:

  • Require VA to update its definition of “Military Sexual Trauma” to include technological abuse, ensuring servicemembers and veterans who experience online sexual harassment can access VA counseling and benefits.
  • Codify a lower burden of proof, or a “relaxed evidentiary standard”, for establishing service connection for a mental health condition related to MST. This requires VA to consider non-DOD evidence when evaluating a veteran’s claim, including the veteran’s own personal statement regarding the event.
  • Expand eligibility for the “relaxed evidentiary standard” to include all MST survivors regardless of their specific mental health diagnosis. Currently, only veterans with a PTSD diagnosis are eligible for the “relaxed evidentiary standard,” leaving many veterans with a different diagnosis unable to access disability benefits due to additional roadblocks.


In Congress, Kuster has worked to improve access to care and support for veterans in New Hampshire and across the country. Earlier this year, she introduced the Military Family Violence Prevention Act, a bipartisan and bicameral bill that aims to improve the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Family Advocacy Program (FAP) by ensuring the program is properly resourced, improving coordination of the program on military installations, and increasing education about the program for servicemembers and families in order to quickly intervene and prevent domestic violence and abuse in the military.