Sexual Trauma in the Military, a rising issue for mental health.
Earlier this month “military sexual trauma” (MST) was arguably identified as one of most troubling mental health ailments that a uniformed member may confront. Sexual trauma in the military specifically, on 7 February 2022, the Secretary of the Army issued a broadly impactful directive allowing civilians (former Soldiers) to retrospectively request Line of Duty (LOD) Investigations. In other words, all former service members are now legally entitled to request the active-duty Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) to spearhead an investigation. In “founded” cases, such victims can receive a 70% disability rating, which is approximately $1,529 per month. This newly promulgated active-duty involvement will arguably significantly increase the speed by which such claims (arguably sidesteps the VA) are resolved.
In a nutshell, Army Directive 2022-04 amends Army Regulation (AR) 600-8-4, para. 2-2, which, according to the Secretary, failed to “clearly prescribe” the law. (emphasis added) Before this change AR 600-8-4, para. 2, had prohibited such former victims from requesting SARC involvement. Now the SARC must investigate sexual trauma in the military, coordinate and then ultimately complete a Department of Army (DA) Form 2173 regarding whether a sexual assault occurred, even if the triggering incident occurred many years ago. Continuing on, the prior restrictive regulation read:
“At no time will an LOD be initiated, regardless of the circumstance(s), for a Soldier not in an authorized duty status at the time of injury, illness, disease, or death. A Soldier must be in an authorized duty status, as determined by the unit commander, before an LOD can be initiated.” Id. at para. 2-2
Despite the Secretary of the Army characterizing this old law as essentially “unclear,” what is clear, now, is victims of sexual assault have presently been given a powerful conduit to seek financial remedies by use of the active duty component. The key, if you will, to the active duty side, has now been handed over, it reads:
“When a victim of sexual assault develops a condition of lasting significance and requires continued treatment while not in an active-duty status, an LOD determination is required. All sexual assault LOD requests will be initiated by the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC)….” Army Directive 2022-04, para. 5(b)(emphasis added) As a direct result of this language, U.S. Army leadership, SARCs, and medical professionals can now be tasked to assess whether such “cold cases” warrant relief.
(emphasis added) Notably, however, this new opportunity for relief does not relate to anyone other than sexual assault victims. For instance, Army Directive 2022-04 does not provide Army combat veterans with the opportunity to request such an active duty LOD. Thus, no matter what one may think about the propriety of the Secretary’s recent actions, if this “sexual assault” exception is made, surly combat veterans that suffer from the mental health issues must likewise deserve the right to request active duty support. In short, the Secretary of the Army could consider everyone that suffers from mental health problems post-separation, and not exclusively sexual assault victims.