RI Veterans: Did you know? Military sexual trauma, Veteran of Year, events, resources – John A. Cianci

by John A. Cianci, contributing writer on veterans issues

Questions from one of our readers:

I was a member of the reserves and sexual harassed repeatedly before I stopped going to drills, can I put a claim in for the incidents that happened over 30 years ago? – Donna, North Providence

Yes, generally, all National Guard and Reserve members qualify for some VA benefits. Moreover, members of the reserve and guard can file MST claims for incidents that occurred while he or she serve during weekend drills or other periods of inactive duty training. 

Veterans can receive compensation for conditions that started or got worse in the line of duty. This includes injuries or disabilities related to MST.

In addition, the VA offers FREE MST-related treatment.

Applying for disability compensation is separate from eligibility for free MST-related healthcare services through VA. You do not need to apply for disability compensation to receive MST-related treatment and do not need to have reported your experience at the time the event occurred. You may be able to receive MST-related treatment even if you are not eligible for other VA care.

To learn more: or contact your local VA medical facility and ask to speak to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) MST Coordinator. 

More on understanding veteran benefits for MST victims:

Disability Compensation for Conditions Related to Military Sexual Trauma (MST) 

Did you know: To receive Military Sexual Trauma (MST)-related care, you don’t need to have reported the MST at the time or have other proof that the MST happened. Veterans don’t need to have a service-connected disability rating, and you may be able to get MST-related care even if you aren’t eligible for other VA services.

Did you know: the VA Providence has a Military Sexual Trauma Coordinators? 

Military Sexual Trauma Coordinators Rhode Island (Providence Regional Office)

Christina Thomas – Female Primary

Lynn St. Germain-Lundh – Female Alternate

Steven Octaviano – Male Primary

Recent Changes to MST-related PTSD claims processing means more help for Veterans

Due to increased awareness of this problem and the challenges of providing corroborating evidence in many cases, VA has taken a number of steps over the years to better serve MST survivors applying for disability compensation for conditions caused by MST, beginning with relaxing evidentiary standards in 2002. Because events involving sexual trauma are not always officially reported, VA looks for “markers” (i.e., signs, events or circumstances) that provide an indication the traumatic event happened, which include but are not limited to records from rape crisis or mental health counseling centers, tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, statements from family members or roommates, transfer requests, deterioration in work performance, episodes of depression or anxiety without an identifiable cause and relationship issues.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), military sexual trauma (MST) is a psychological trauma that results from physical assault or battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment. VA defines sexual harassment as repeated and unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual and threatening nature.

If the servicemember experienced sexual trauma while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty for training, they are considered by VA to have experienced.

MST Definition 

VA uses the term MST to refer to sexual assault or sexual harassment experienced during military service. Examples include: 

·       Being pressured or coerced into sexual activities, such as with threats of negative treatment if you refuse to cooperate or with promises of better treatment in exchange for sex 

·       Someone having sexual contact with you without your consent, such as when you were asleep or intoxicated 

·       Being physically forced to have sex 

·       Being touched in a sexual way that made you uncomfortable 

·       Comments about your body or sexual activities that you found threatening 

·       Unwanted sexual advances that you found threatening 

How does the VA prove MST?

Because the VA realizes you may not have a military medical record that shows proof of the MST, it accepts other types of substantiating evidence, including: Any type of documentation or records showing that you requested a transfer out of your unit. Any proof that you have a problem with substance abuse.

MST is defined by Title 38 U.S. Code 120D. It states MST is:

  • Psychological trauma resulting from a physical assault of a sexual nature
  • Battery of a sexual nature
  • Sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on:
    • Active duty
    • Active duty for training
    • Inactive duty training

Sexual harassment is different. It is defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature.”

Disability Compensation for MST Disability compensation is not given for MST. However, you can receive it for conditions that result from MST.

The following can support your MST claim:

  • Department of Defense sexual assault or harassment reporting forms
  • Investigative reports completed during military service

We know not all sexual trauma events are reported. PTSD claims related to MST require less evidence. Instead, the VA now looks for “markers.” These may be signs, events, or circumstances. These provide some clue the traumatic event happened.

Some examples of markers are:

  • Records from official sources
    • Law enforcement
    • Rape crisis centers
    • Mental health counseling centers
    • Hospitals
    • Physicians
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Tests for sexually transmitted diseases
  • Statements from others
    • Family members
    • Roommates
    • Clergy members
    • Fellow Service members
    • Counselors
  • Requests for transfer to another military duty assignment
  • Decrease in work performance
  • Substance abuse
  • Episodes of the following without clear cause:
    • Depression
    • Panic attacks or Anxiety
  • Unexplained behavior (economic or social)
  • Relationship issues, like divorce
  • Sexual dysfunction

An individual who suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of military sexual trauma (MST) that occurred during a period of inactive duty for training may be considered disabled by an injury for purposes of 38 U.S.C. 101(2) and (24).

Naming the assailant

With the changes in the evidence requirements in 2017, there are cases where you do not have to actually name the attacker. This is important when the assailant may be in your local vicinity, still attached to your unit, etc. Just because you are unwilling to name the person who attacked you does not mean you should not file a claim for PTSD or other conditions related to the MST.

There are male and female MST coordinators at every VA regional office. They are available to help you.

In conclusion, I encourage any of my brothers and sisters who experiences MST incidents to reach out to the VA MST coordinators to find out on numerous programs available to assist you. It’s never to0 late to seek assistance or file a disability claim for MST, regardless how long ago the incident(s) happened.


United Veterans Council of Woonsocket, Veteran of the Year 2023

William “Grizz” Griswold is a U.S. Army Veteran who served with the 249th Combat Engineers in Karlsruhe Germany from 1986-1989. He is active member of American Legion Post 85, Woonsocket RI. William is the VSO (Veteran Service Officer) for safeguard, an outreach program created to prevent Veteran Suicide, road captain of the US Veterans Motorcycle Club of RI, volunteers at Operation Stand Down. 

KUDOs to “Grizz”, RINEWSTODAY salutes you!



March 31, 2023 – Friday 6:30PM, On Friday, March 31st, at 1830, the Rhode Island National Guard will be hosting the Adjutant General’s Cup. This event will be taking place at the Boss Ice Arena (1 Keaney Rd, Kingstown, RI 02881). The Rhode Island Air National Guard will be competing against the Rhode Island Army National Guard to take home the cup! Admission is FREE as are the T-shirts they will be giving away.

April 3, 2023 – 9am, Federal Hill Veteran Coffee House, “Roma” Atwells Ave, Providence RI. The Italian American War Veterans of US invites all veterans and their guest to join. Refreshments are served. For sure, you won’t leave hungry.  

April 8, 2023 – Women’s Veterans Luncheon 12:00 p.m. at Rhode Island Veterans Home, 400 Metacom Ave Bristol RI. Women veteran with veteran ID meal is FREE. All other $15. Reservations are a must, contact Ginny Hanson, (401) 294-2434, email or Gretchen at (401) 862-9639, email gvierlingcutlip@gmail.comDeadline for reservations is Wednesday March 22, 2023. 

April 23, 2023 – Chopstick Auction for Department VFW Auxiliary Ways and Means Committee, Kelley Grazzero Post #2812, 1418 Plainfield Street, Cranston RI. Auction starts 1:00 p.m., more information call Stephen Doherty, (401) 500-1255 

May 6, 2023 – Memorial Day Parade Pasta Dinner Saturday, May 6th 4pm-7pm at Lincoln Senior Center- 150 Jenckes Hill Rd., Adults-$15, Children $10, Ages 5 and under free.  In addition to entry to the pasta dinner, purchase of one of these tickets will enter you in our raffle, to be eligible to win an awesome prize from local Lincoln businesses! Come enjoy great food, music, and lots of raffle prizes! Tickets are available for purchase at Town Hall – 100 Old River Rd., We Roast Coffee- 276 Front St., Ted’s Paint- 194 Front St., and Lincoln Senior Center- 150 Jenckes Hill Rd. Questions please email or call 401-333-8416 / 401-333-8417. All proceeds go towards the Lincoln Memorial Day Parade Celebration!


RESOURCES  & ongoing groups 

Below are all the groups the Providence Vet Center is currently offering.  As this list changes, I will provide updates. Please send me any questions that you may have, thank you for your time! 

***All Vet Center Groups require that the Veteran be enrolled with the Vet Center prior to attending. To check eligibility or for questions, please contact the Vet Center at (401) 739-0167 or reach out to our Veteran Outreach Program Specialist (VOPS) via email at*** 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Group (PTSD) – 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (Group is only active September through May) 

Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and Vietnam Veterans PTSD Group – 2nd and 4th  Wednesday of the month from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. 

Vietnam Veteran PTSD Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 10:30 – 12:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. 

Art Expression Group – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 12:00 p.m. 

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation New Dawn (OND) Group – Every Wednesday from 11:00 – 12:00 p.m. 

Stress Management – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. 

Low Impact Walking Group – Every Tuesday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. 

Guitar 4 Veterans – Every Wednesday from 7:00-8:30 p.m. 

Monday Mindfulness Group – Every Monday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. 

Yoga Group – Every Friday from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. 

Moral Injury Group – Every Friday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. 

Modern Warrior Support Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 2:30 – 4:00 pm. 


Discounts for Veterans 


No Problem Plumbing and Heating LLC 15% military discount , ask for Ron Gaynor, (401) 568-6666. Veterans must provide proof of eligibility with a VA Card, VA ID Card, or RI State license with veteran identification. 


Applebee’s – Military Discount. With more than 2,000 locations, Applebee’s is a family grill restaurant. Applebee’s gives 10% off for active duty and veteran. Last verified 07/31/2022. 

Denny’s – Hartford Ave, Johnston offers 10% discount for veterans and active duty. Denny’s is a table service diner-style restaurant chain. Last verified 07/31/2022. 

Outback Steakhouse – 10% Discount to active and veterans. Last verified 07/28/2021 

99 Restaurant & Pub – The 99 Restaurant & Pub offers a 10% military discount to members of Veterans Advantage. Available at select locations only. Bring valid military ID 


Advance Auto Parts – 10% for Active Duty, Veterans, and families. Last verified 07/28/2021 

Bass Pro Shops –  Offers a 5% discount to active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard. Sign up and verify your status online or bring your military ID when you shop at your nearest Bass Pro store (source). 

BJs Wholesale – Reduced membership fee. BJ’s offers all military personnel over 25% off their Membership. Last verified 07/28/2021 

Lowes – Enroll in the Lowe’s Military Discount Program to activate your 10% discount – “Our way of saying Thank You” to our active duty, retired and military veterans and their spouses with a 10% discount on eligible items. Verification of your military status is fast and easy through our partner, is our trusted technology partner in helping to keep your personal information safe. 

GameStop – is offering a 10% in-store military discount on all pre-owned products, collectibles, and select new products. Available to current and former military members who bring any valid proof of service or when they verify through 

Home Depot – Offers a 10% off military discount on regularly priced merchandise for in-store purchases for active duty, retired military, and reservists at participating locations. Customers are required to show a valid government-issued military ID card to redeem this offer. 

Kohls – 15% discount offers for active military, veterans, retirees, and their immediate family members a 15% discount on purchases made on Mondays, in store only. In order to receive the military discount, eligible customers must present proper identification along with any tender type. 

Jiffy Lube – HONORING VETERANS ALL DAY EVERY DAY! – We didn’t want to wait for Veteran’s Day to express our appreciation and gratitude for your service. That’s why every Team Car Care owned and operated Jiffy Lube® service center is offering our BEST discount of 10% OFF as a “Thank You” to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service to our country. *Disclaimer*- I.D. required. No coupon is required. Excludes batteries and brakes, alignment, and diagnostic services. Available only at 3 select locations: Tioque Ave, Coventry – Bald Hill Road, Warwick – Park Ave, Cranston.

Michaels – offers a 15% off military discount on the entire in-store purchase including sale items for active duty, retired military, guard, reservists, veterans, and family members. How to get – 

1.    Create an Account. Log in or create a Michaels Rewards account. 

2.    Get Verified. Provide your military information to get verified instantly. 

3.    Go Shopping! To use your discount online and in store, just sign into your account or provide your Michaels Rewards phone number at checkout. 

O’Reilly Auto Parts – 10% discount on in store items for Active Duty, Veterans and families. Last verified 3/4/21. 


Send us your info – or questions!

If you are a retailer and or a veteran aware of a business not listed above, please forward  the business’s name, location, and military and veteran discount offered. 

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci,, ITAM Office 1-(401)677-9VET(9838) 


To read all columns in this series go to:  

John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.

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