Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Deborah Ross (NC-02), Jenniffer González-Colón (PR-AL), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), and Nancy Mace (SC-01) have introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 4452, the Military Sexual Trauma Retirement Equity Act (MSTREA Act), to enable all military retirees with disabilities caused by military sexual trauma (MST) to receive their full retirement and disability compensation. 

Currently, military retirees who have a disability caused by MST cannot recover their full retirement pay if they are medically retired, or if they are tenure-retired with a total disability rating less than 50%.  

“It’s deeply concerning that many survivors of military sexual trauma are not able to recover their full retirement pay,” said Congresswoman Ross. “We owe our veterans an enormous debt of gratitude and we cannot fail to act when military retirees who endured heinous acts of violence are unable to receive the benefits they are owed. We must end the stigma around sexual assault and provide our military retirees, including those in North Carolina, with the support needed to recover fully from trauma.”

“MSTREA seeks to cure this inequitable treatment by allowing a survivor of military sexual trauma to receive the same funding that a combat veteran is eligible for. Our veterans sacrifice so much for our country, and they should not be subject to this kind of treatment while in service, and even less so, not receive compensation for a trauma to this magnitude.” said Rep. González-Colón. “I’m proud to have introduced this this bipartisan bill to address this injustice while also protecting these veterans from the stigma and harm that comes from needlessly repeating their story of survival to multiple parties.”

 “I am proud to cosponsor the Military Sexual Trauma Retirement Equity Act, which will help ensure that survivors receive the benefits that they earned and that they are owed. We have a lot of work to do to address sexual assault in the military and improve our support systems for survivors, who should not endure additional financial hardship because the system failed to protect them” said Congresswoman Jacobs

“Enabling all veterans with disabilities caused by military sexual trauma to receive their full retirement and disability compensation is the least we can do for those who served our country,” said Rep. Mace. “Instead of being compensated for their sacrifice, our veterans are suffering silently without support. It is time to de-stigmatize sexual trauma and ensure our veterans are receiving the full benefits they have undoubtably earned.”

This legislation would rectify this situation by defining MST as an exposure that meets the criteria for Combat-Related Special Compensation. In doing so, retirees with disabilities caused by MST would be able to recover their full entitlement after going through the established disability claims process with the VA. 

A retired servicemember can receive two kinds of paychecks from their service; a retirement one form Department of Defense and a disability check from the VA. Retirees who receive a disability check receive less retirement pay unless their disability is “combat related” (i.e. someone injured during training or by an improvised explosive device IED). To this end, if a veteran is sexually assaulted by their supervisor while on a combat deployment, would not qualify.

Background information

In 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 50 men report experiencing Military Sexual Trauma to their VA providers.  Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment that occurs while the member is serving on duty.

 The experience of MST can cause a wide range of illnesses that could result in a service-connected disability, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorders, STDs, and reproductive health disorders. 

The VA reports more than 84,000 veterans have disabilities caused by MST, with more than 57,000 of those disabilities being rated between 70 – 100%.