PTSD and VA Disability Benefits: Finding a Path to Healing

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been around since soldiers were going to war. The VA says “accounts of psychological symptoms following military trauma date back to ancient times. The American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) mark the start of formal medical attempts to address the problems of military veterans exposed to combat.” In World War I and II, PTSD was known as shell shock and combat neurosis. The term PTSD was first used in the 1970s as a result of the experiences of soldiers in the Vietnam War. 

 
Returning soldiers have experienced PTSD at different rates over the last half century.
Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nearly 3 million US service members have been involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In 2008, the RAND Corporation and the Center for Military Health Research examined the prevalence of PTSD among previously deployed Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom service members and found 11 to 20 percent suffered from PTSD. It is estimated the number of veterans from both of these wars suffering from diagnosed or undiagnosed PTSD is more than 450,000.
Gulf War. A population-based sample of 11,441 Gulf War veterans was studied from 1995 to 1997. Among them, the prevalence of PTSD was 12.1 percent.
Vietnam War. Of the 3,016 veterans who were studied from the Vietnam War era, the estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 30.9 percent for men and 26.9 percent for women.
 
The psychological trauma of past events can strike a veteran at any point in his or her life. Many veterans will begin to display symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder soon after returning home, some service members begin to experience the first signs before they are discharged, and still more veterans will suffer nightmares or flashbacks 5, 10, or even 20 years after leaving military service.
Qualifying for VA Disability Benefits for Symptoms of PTSD
Unlike most emotional disorders, PTSD can cause symptoms long after a person has experienced a disturbing event. So former service members can get the help they need, regulations were passed in 2010 that made it easier for veterans with PTSD to get approved for VA disability benefits. Under these new regulations, veterans no longer have to provide proof that an event occurred causing their PTSD. This rule applied to both combat veterans and all veterans who were involved in and experienced fear because of a terrorist or hostile situation. 
 
To qualify for VA compensation for PTSD, a veteran must show service connection by proof of:
PTSD diagnosis. Veterans are required to have a current diagnosis of PTSD. This diagnosis must be by a psychiatrist or psychologist at a VA medical facility.
Evidence that an in-service stressor event occurred. PTSD is an anxiety disorder based on a traumatic event. While veterans no longer have to provide evidence that they suffered a single traumatic event, they must describe any known instances and experiences that are related to their PTSD symptoms.
Connection between an in-service stressor event and current symptoms. The veteran must prove that his or her PTSD trauma occurred during military service and, as result, currently experiences symptoms. 
 
There are four types of common symptoms that many–but not all–people with PTSD experience:
Re-experiencing or reliving the traumatic event.
Avoiding situations that trigger bad memories of the event.
Hyper-arousal or being constantly on alert for signs of danger.
Having negative feelings about yourself or others. 
 

This article is excerpted from Cuddigan Law’s informative book, PTSD and VA Disability Benefits: Finding a Path to Healing. For a free download of this book—packed with helpful information for vets coping with PTSD including insider tips to maximize your benefits— click here or call us at 402-933-5318 or email us at [email protected]

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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