Military sexual trauma survivors' perceptions of veterans health administration care: A qualitative examination

Psychol Serv. 2020 May;17(2):178-186. doi: 10.1037/ser0000290. Epub 2018 Sep 27.


Although the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provides free health care related to military sexual trauma (MST), many veterans forgo or delay such care, underscoring the need for research aimed at understanding MST survivors' perceptions and concerns regarding VHA care. This study employed a qualitative phenomenological approach to describe MST survivors': (a) perceptions of VHA care, (b) concerns about VHA care, and (c) suggestions for how VHA can facilitate recovery from MST. Fifty veterans (32 women, 18 men) with histories of MST participated in semistructured interviews. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis. The pattern of themes was examined by gender and MST type. The majority of participants described neutral or positive perceptions of VHA care; however, a subset of participants described negative perceptions and reservations about using VHA care. Participants expressed concerns regarding distrust, provider compassion, privacy, stigma, shame, and continuity of care. Some women, particularly those who experienced military sexual assault, also described gender-related distress (e.g., feeling anxious or out of place, desire for separate facilities). Both men and women described wanting nonspecific support, improved continuity of care, and the ability to choose from a variety of treatment options (e.g., holistic, gender-specific). Further research is needed to examine if these findings are replicated in other samples. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Trauma / therapy*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Veterans Health Services*