VA refers to MST as the experiences of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault that occurred while the veteran was in the military. Both males and females can experience MST. The perpetrator can be of the same or of the opposite gender. Like other types of trauma, MST can negatively impact a person's mental and physical health, even many years later. The Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-585) was signed into law after a series of hearings on women veterans' issues by the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee in July 1992. The Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 authorized VA to provide outreach and establish MST counseling and treatment programs for women veterans who experienced incidents of sexual trauma while on active duty. The Veterans Health Care Extension Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-452) authorized VA to provide MST counseling and treatment to men as well as women. The Veterans Millennium Health Care Act (Public Law 106-117) expanded the focus on MST programs to include outreach and extended VA's authority to provide MST programs until December 2004. The Veterans Health Program Improvement Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-422) extended VA's authority permanently and extended MST counseling and related treatment to veterans whose MST occurred while serving on active duty or active duty for training (as defined under Title 38 United States Code §101(22)) if service was in the National Guard or Reserves.
Following the passage of these public laws, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive 2005-015, Military Sexual Trauma Counseling, March 25, 2005, mandated universal screening of all enrolled veterans for a history of MST and mandated that each VA medical facility appoint an MST Coordinator to oversee the screening and treatment referral process. The directive recommended the use of clinic stop code 524 so that collection of MST treatment data is accessible and consistent across the VA system. Stop codes are identifiers used in VHA's managerial cost accounting system, the Decision Support System (DSS), to indicate the primary clinical group providing the services. DSS is a congressionally-mandated resource management tool. Implementation began throughout VHA in 1994.
VA provides free, confidential counseling and treatment for veterans' mental and physical health conditions resulting from MST that occurred while serving on active duty or active duty for training if service was in the National Guard or Reserves. Veterans do not need to have reported the incident(s) when they happened or have other documentation that they occurred. Appropriate services are provided for any injury, illness, or psychological condition resulting from MST. Veterans do not need to be SC and may be able to receive this benefit even if they are not otherwise eligible for VA health care benefits. Although veterans receiving MST-related counseling and treatment are not billed for inpatient, outpatient, or medication copayments, applicable copayments may be charged for services not related to MST or for other non-SC conditions.