According to preliminary research results from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 15 percent of recently returned female veterans utilizing the VA health care system report experiencing sexual trauma during military service.
The findings come from a cross-sectional study that examined health care screening data of over 100,000 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) who utilized medical care at any Veterans Health Administration facility during a six-year period.
Along with the more than one in seven women, 0.7 percent of males also reported having experienced military sexual trauma (MST). Both males and females reporting MST were more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition than patients who did not report MST.
“These data highlight the importance of the VA’s universal screening policy,” said Joanne Pavao, MPH, a Department of Veterans Affairs researcher on the study, “as well as early intervention among veterans who have experienced sexual trauma, to prevent long-term consequences.”
VHA policy requires that all male and female veterans are screened for experiences of military sexual trauma and that free treatment for MST-related conditions is provided at all VA health care facilities.