Have Questions About the Disability Claims Process for Social Security or Veterans Benefits? Check Out Our FAQs

Dealing with the disability application or appeals process always comes with plenty of questions. Whether your questions are about Social Security or VA Disability, here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.

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  • Is it ever too late to get treated for PTSD?

    No matter when symptoms develop or if you’ve had them for a long time, it’s never too late to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental illness can occur in veterans just returning from deployment, or symptoms might develop many years later.

    Members of the military who witnessed or were involved in life-threatening, traumatic incidents can suffer from this medical condition at any point. Due to the extreme and dangerous environments they work in, military personnel have a higher risk of developing PTSD than civilians.

    Why Seek Treatment for PTSD?

    Seeking treatment for PTSD might not feel like an easy decision for many veterans. People with a mental illness often want to avoid discussing it with others and turn inward as a way of coping with this condition. However, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes PTSD as a medical condition, and the agency offers various programs and resources that provide excellent treatment options that can be very helpful.

    Never too late to get PTSD treatmentIt’s important to seek treatment, because PTSD can interfere with your relationships, your success at work, your daily routine, and your satisfaction of life.

    While people improve in various ways and through different means, it’s possible for veterans and active servicemen and women suffering with PTSD to better their quality of life. 


    Through treatment, many veterans can eliminate their symptoms; and for others, they learn more effective coping skills that ease troublesome issues.

    Treatment can be a path to:

    • Understanding the trauma you’ve experienced
    • Reconnecting with friends and loved ones
    • Establishing new goals or rekindling old ones
    • Learning skills and strategies that help you manage negative feelings and behaviors associated with the traumatic incident

    Contact Cuddigan Law for Help

    The experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans have made to protect this country, and we believe it's never too late to seek treatment if you suffer from PTSD. If you’re a veteran with this medical condition, we can help you obtain the disability benefits you need to care for yourself and your loved ones. It’s possible that you qualify for financial assistance from the VA.

    If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • Am I weak because I’ve developed PTSD?

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop in servicemen and women on active duty or after they return home, but many are reluctant to seek treatment for this medical condition. Social stigmas or feelings of personal weakness can sometimes cause veterans to suffer in silence while PTSD disrupts their lives.

    You're not weak having PTSDFactors for Developing PTSD

    There are many factors that determine if a member of the military will develop PTSD.

    Even if someone experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, it doesn’t mean he’ll suffer from PTSD. Individuals with the following are more likely to develop this medical condition:

    • Veterans/soldiers with a history of mental illness
    • Veterans/soldiers with a family history of mental illness
    • Veterans/soldiers who have no social support
    • Veterans/soldiers who don’t tell anyone about their traumatic combat experience

    There are many myths about PTSD, but one in particular seems to hamper a veteran’s willingness to get help: having PTSD makes him weak, and he wasn’t strong enough to deal with combat.

    Developing PTSD Doesn’t Make a Veteran Weak

    After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, veterans and soldiers may feel embarrassed if they develop symptoms of PTSD. Because there's still a social stigma about people with mental illness, some military personnel may feel damaged, inadequate, or weak, thinking others don’t want to be around them. When this happens, individuals with PTSD tend to keep their pain and suffering to themselves, not letting others in to help.

    Those in the military who have symptoms of PTSD may fear they’ll be seen as unfit for duty by their peers and superiors. They also may be afraid they’ll be discharged. Because there still might be a misconception that a service member with PTSD isn’t able to protect others and can’t be trusted, military personnel often keep silent about their condition.

    It’s important to know that developing PTSD isn’t anyone’s fault. To demonstrate real courage, it’s critical for your health to speak up and get help. Because there are many options and resources available for treatment, there’s every reason to get the assistance you need to cope with this medical condition. 

    Cuddigan Law Can Help With Your PTSD Claim

    The experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans have made to protect this country, and we understand that developing PTSD isn't a weakness. If you’re a veteran suffering from PTSD, we can help you obtain the disability benefits you need to care for yourself and your loved ones. It’s possible that you qualify for financial assistance from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

    If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • How Does a Doctor Diagnose PTSD?

    Many veterans returning home from military service experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These men and women have witnessed or been involved in life-altering, traumatic events that created serious physical and emotional challenges. PTSD is a recognized medical condition, and veterans have higher risks of developing PTSD than individuals who don’t serve in the military.

    When doctors diagnose PTSD, they perform:

    • A physical exam to make certain medical problems aren't causing the symptoms.
    • A psychological evaluation that involves discussing all of the signs and symptoms experienced up to and after the event. For this determination, the doctor uses criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

    What Are the DSM-5 Requirements?

    How PTSD is diagnosedPTSD is now included as a new category in the DSM-5: Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. Every condition requires a veteran be exposed to a traumatic or stressful event. Here's a short summary of the criteria used for diagnosing PTSD:

    Requirement 1: Stressor (must have one)

    A veteran must have experienced death, a death threat, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence in one (or more) of the following ways:

    • He had direct exposure to the event
    • He witnessed the traumatic event
    • He learned that a close friend or a relative was exposed to the traumatic event
    • He had indirect exposure to graphic details about the traumatic event—for example, EMT workers and first responders

    Requirement 2: Intrusion Symptoms (must have one)

    The veteran must consistently re-experience the traumatic event in one or more of the following ways:

    • He has nightmares
    • He has flashbacks
    • He has difficult, upsetting, unwanted memories
    • He feels emotional distress after experiencing reminders of the traumatic event
    • He has “physical reactivity” after experiencing reminders of the traumatic event

    Requirement 3: Avoidance (must have one)

    The veteran must show behaviors that avoid “trauma-related stimuli” by:

    • Avoiding trauma-related thoughts and/or feelings
    • Avoiding trauma-related external reminders such as activities, social events, environments, and people who might bring about memories of the event

    Requirement 4: Negative Alterations in Cognition and Mood (must have two)

    The veteran’s negative feelings and thoughts worsened after the traumatic event by:

    • Inability to remember important features of the incident
    • Excessively negative assumptions and thoughts about self and the world
    • Excessive blame of others or self for causing the traumatic event
    • Decreased interest in day-to-day activities or pursuits once enjoyed
    • Increased feelings of isolation
    • Inability to experience a positive outlook

    There are additional criteria that include irritability, aggression, destructive behavior, hyper-vigilance, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping. If symptoms last for more than a month, create functional impairment or distress, and aren’t due to medication use, substance abuse, or other illnesses, your doctor may diagnose you with PTSD.

    Cuddigan Law Can Help With Your PTSD Claim

    The experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans have made to protect this country. If you’re a veteran suffering from PTSD, we can help you obtain the disability benefits you need to care for yourself and your loved ones. It’s possible that you qualify for financial assistance from the VA.

    If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • Why am I experiencing PTSD so long after my military service?

    While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect service personnel when they return from deployment, many veterans experience symptoms of PTSD much later in life—long after their time in the military. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals show a growing number of senior veterans seeking treatment for new PTSD symptoms.

    Reasons Veterans Experience PTSD Later in Life

    Why some PTSD symptoms appear for older veteransWhen veterans return home from military duty, many find jobs, get married, have children, and continue on with their lives. Despite experiencing traumatic, life-altering incidents during combat, they're able to function in society, have families, and socialize with their friends in a productive way.


    However, when some veterans get older, as is the case with civilians, they are faced with major life changes that can be triggers for PTSD and its accompanying symptoms.

    For example, a veteran may eventually suffer a significant medical issue after years of good health. The concern and distress he feels about his condition may cause him to become more aware of his own mortality and the end of his life. This type of anxiety may bring about symptoms of PTSD.

    Additionally, a veteran may experience PTSD later in life because of:

    • Repressed feelings. For many Vietnam veterans, it was difficult to talk about their experiences because there was so much hostility and negativity about the war. In many cases, society viewed these veterans as the enemy—thus, veterans repressed feelings they had about their time in combat, creating psychological issues that surfaced later. Additionally, many veterans who served during the Vietnam era were told to “man up” about anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Ultimately, those emotions emerged later through PTSD symptoms.
    • More leisure time. After veterans retire, they have more time to consider the past and reflect on the events experienced during combat. Feelings they might have held back or suppressed over the years may emerge in a way that haunts them or causes them to relive a traumatic event. Employment is no longer a major part of their days, and without that as a distraction, their minds might wander into the past, often prompting flashbacks of difficult times.
    • Death of loved ones. As veterans get older, they face the death of friends, family members, siblings, romantic partners, and even comrades they had during their time in service. If death happens more frequently, it can trigger thoughts and emotions of survivor guilt, remorse, regret, and loss for all that transpired in the past.

    Cuddigan Law Can Help With Your PTSD Claim

    The experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices veterans made to protect this country. If you’re a veteran suffering from PTSD, we can help you obtain the disability benefits you need to care for yourself and your loved ones. It’s possible that you qualify for financial assistance from the VA.

    If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • Are there alternative treatment options for my PTSD?

    For many years, veterans and civilians who have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, were treated with prolonged exposure therapy, cognitive processing therapy, and pharmacological therapy. These approaches have helped veterans, in particular, deal with the emotional aftermath of military combat and the life-changing, traumatic events that bring on this mental condition.

    However, researchers, doctors, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) agree there's no “one size fits all” therapy, and they're recognizing the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques for helping veterans deal with PTSD symptoms.

    What Is CAM?

    Alternative treatments for PTSD

    CAM techniques are non-traditional therapies that use medical products and practices that are not considered “standard” care by the medical field. Typically, CAM techniques are used along with other standard treatments. Some CAM techniques have been carefully evaluated and found to be effective and safe, while others are just the opposite.

    Techniques considered part of the CAM therapies include:

    • Traditional alternative medicine. Homeopathy, acupuncture, and naturopathy are therapies that tend to be more accepted and considered mainstream treatments.
    • Diet and herbs. These dietary and herbal approaches work to “balance the body’s nutritional well-being.” Changes in nutrition, along with dietary supplements and herbal medicine, may help with PTSD.
    • Movement therapy. Healing by touch works from the idea that any type of injury or illness can impact the entire body. If optimum health can be achieved in other parts of the body through manual manipulation, it’s thought that the body can target healing at the injury site. Body therapies include massage, tai chi, yoga, and chiropractic medicine.

    Contact Cuddigan Law About Your PTSD Claim

    If you’re a veteran diagnosed with PTSD and you want to file a disability claim or appeal one, contact Cuddigan Law. We'll handle the necessary communication with the VA and work with your doctors to help provide the critical evidence required to prove your claim.

    Additionally, we’ll help service-connect your mental health condition. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • What are the signs and symptoms of emotional avoidance?

    People who’ve witnessed or been involved in life-changing or traumatic events may be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms usually occur soon after the event, but some people might not experience symptoms for months or years later.

    In general, there are three types of PTSD symptoms: re-experiencing the incident through nightmares and flashbacks; hyper-arousal and feeling jumpy, irritated, and unable to sleep; and emotional avoidance.

    Emotional avoidance and PTSDWhat Are the Signs of Emotional Avoidance?

    People who survive a traumatic experience often engage in behaviors that help them deal with difficult memories about the experience, as well as the emotions that accompany them. If a person feels overwhelmed or unable to cope, emotional avoidance can keep bad feelings away. Emotional avoidance behaviors include:

    • Self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs
    • Avoiding places and activities that cause you to re-experience the event
    • An inability to feel love
    • An inability to recall critical elements of the traumatic incident
    • Feeling a decreased interest in your family and friends
    • Feeling disassociated or disconnected from people you care about
    • Avoiding conversations, thoughts, or feelings associated with the traumatic incident
    • Avoiding interaction with people who remind you of the event
    • Experiencing decreased expectations for your future and inability to see a future, marriage, or children

    Other people may use tension-reducing behaviors to cope with their PTSD. Veterans who want to avoid overwhelming and painful emotions about life-altering events may choose a strategy that helps reduce the level of tension or stress they feel. Tension-reducing behaviors include:

    • Binge eating
    • Engaging in dangerous sexual behavior
    • Engaging in self-harm, such as cutting
    • Allowing thoughts of suicide
    • Spending a great deal of money

    With time and professional guidance, a veteran who exhibits these types of behaviors can learn better self-care management and strategies.

    Cuddigan Law Can Help With Your PTSD Claim

    If you’re a veteran diagnosed with PTSD, you may be eligible for financial support from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits or appeal a denial, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • What is conscious and unconscious avoidance related to PTSD?

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common medical condition that many veterans deal with after time spent in combat. PTSD occurs when someone witnesses or experiences a life-altering, traumatic event and is unable to recover from the incident. 

    Because many veterans serve in dangerous environments that are emotionally and physically challenging, they're at a higher risk of developing PTSD than those who never served in the military. Those who suffer from PTSD may try to avoid the emotions associated with the traumatic event. Two types of avoidance are conscious and unconscious avoidance.

    Understanding Emotional Avoidance

    Conscious and unconscious avoidance for PTSDEmotional avoidance is a way for people to escape the painful remembrance of a tragic event. Because memories linked with the trauma are often too powerful and crushing, avoidance offers a way for people who suffer with PTSD to cope.

    If you’re struggling with PTSD, it’s helpful to understand two types of avoidance: conscious and unconscious.

    Conscious Avoidance

    In general, someone with PTSD purposefully avoids any stimulus that reminds him or her of the traumatic incident. This person learns what triggers these intense emotions and will intentionally avoid them. For example, a veteran who has trouble sleeping, feels irritable, or engages in self-destructive behavior might try to avoid any situation or person that activates the negative emotions connected with the trauma. Thus, the veteran consciously avoids whatever is necessary to stay far away from feelings that might cause him or her to re-experience the event.

    Unconscious Avoidance

    The symptoms of unconscious avoidance are sometimes hard to recognize, because the brain is tricking you and working overtime to prevent you from acknowledging and dealing with the event. Ultimately, the symptoms of unconscious avoidance become “truth” for the veteran, and these inaccurate truths prevent him or her from seeking treatment.

    A veteran reacting through unconscious avoidance may:

    • Be unable to recall key characteristics of the trauma, which might be due to “dissociative amnesia” rather than drugs, alcohol, or a head injury.
    • Have ongoing negative thoughts about themselves and the world.
    • Have ongoing thoughts blaming themselves or others for what happened.
    • Have decreased interest in activities they once loved.
    • Have feelings of alienation or detachment from people they love.
    • Be unable to experience any positive emotions about their lives.  

    Cuddigan Law Can Help

    If you’re a veteran who suffers from PTSD,you may qualify for financial support from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for disability benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have been supporting veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

  • How do I tell if I’m suffering from PTSD or combat stress?

    Difference between combat stress and PTSDDuring active service, many veterans experience traumatic events. They may witness the event or live through it personally. A traumatic event can include imprisonment, death, and sexual trauma.

    It can also include experiencing a moral injury—a psychological injury where a veteran behaves in a way or witnesses an event that goes against his moral code.


    Each veteran responds differently to a life-changing, traumatic event. Some suffer combat stress; others suffer PTSD. If you're seeking disability benefits for PTSD from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), it's important to understand the differences between this medical condition and combat stress.

    Understanding Combat Stress

    Combat stress is also referred to as combat fatigue, combat disorder, and shell shock. It's an anticipated condition that occurs as a reaction to extreme combat experiences. When veterans are placed in situations that create intense physiological and psychological stress, it's expected that most soldiers will show symptoms of combat stress, including:

    • Being hyper-startled by surprise or loud noises
    • Being hyper-vigilant—always feeling watchful, wary, and on guard
    • Having nightmares
    • Suffering sleep problems
    • Feeling irritable and anxious

    Understanding PTSD

    PTSD isn't an immediate response to combat situations—it’s a mental condition that impairs a person’s ability to function. Combat stress is typically considered predictable and expected after a lengthy time at war, but PTSD is a severe illness. When a veteran is diagnosed with PTSD, he must experience several specific symptoms following a traumatic event, including:

    • Recurring dreams, flashbacks, and/or “intrusive images” of the event
    • Avoiding anything associated with the event, including people, places, and conversations
    • Sleeping problems and sleep disturbances
    • Ongoing problems with concentration
    • Constant irritability and problems with anger management

    There's some overlap in combat stress and PTSD symptoms, but they're not handled the same way. Combat stress isn't a medical condition that requires any treatment, and it's typically resolved after a veteran is no longer in service. PTSD, on the other hand, is a mental illness that requires a doctor’s intervention.

    Cuddigan Law Firm Can Help

    If you're a veteran who suffers from PTSD, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the VA. If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for benefits or appeal a rating decision, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we'll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you'll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • How can I handle a trauma anniversary?

    Working through a trauma anniversary Veterans who experienced traumatic events during service often face an “anniversary reaction” when the anniversary date triggers the memory of the incident.

    Because the date creates such a strong reminder of what happened, a veteran may feel edgy, stressed out, and as if he's living through the event again.

     

    Triggers are unpredictable and occur anywhere, at any time. But there are strategies veterans can use to cope with what is often a symptom of PTSD.

    Ways to Handle Your Anniversary Reaction

    When the anniversary of a traumatic event approaches, there are ways to reduce the severity of your reaction. You can do this by:

    • Anticipating and preparing. If you’ve experienced this response before, you probably know that when the date approaches, you'll feel stressed and anxious. Being cognizant of the forthcoming date and working to keep your life calm and more peaceful during this time can help. Plan ahead so you eliminate as many stressful situations as possible.
    • Honoring. It may be helpful to create a plan that relates to whatever loss you experienced on that date. You may want to commemorate the date in some special way, contribute in some way to your community, or visit the graveside of someone you’ve lost. Honoring the person or the event in a meaningful way often helps reduce your anniversary reaction.
    • Knowing it won’t last. Most reactions don’t last long. Although some can go on for months, they typically end after a few weeks. Knowing that the stressful feelings you have are temporary can help reduce the anxiety you feel near and during the anniversary date.
    • Garnering support. Call on friends and loved ones to "have your six" as the anniversary approaches. Spending time with people you trust and who understand your situation will help lessen the depression, anxiety, and other stressors you may feel. 

    Cuddigan Law Firm Can Help

    If you’re a veteran who experiences symptoms of PTSD, including a trauma anniversary, it’s possible to qualify for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

    If you need help service-connecting your mental health condition and want to file for benefits, contact Cuddigan Law. Our attorneys have supported veterans for years, and we’ll carefully examine your case and advise you on the best approach for receiving the maximum in disability benefits. Call us today, and you’ll speak to an intake specialist for free.

     

  • Am I eligible for the Agent Orange Registry health exam?

    During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of the toxic chemical Agent Orange on Vietnam’s trees, plants, crops, and vegetation, making it difficult for the Viet Cong and Vietnamese to use the thick foliage as a way to hide. It’s possible that if you served in Vietnam, you may have been exposed to Agent Orange, and qualify for disability benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You may also be eligible for the Agent Orange Registry health exam.

    What Is the Agent Orange Registry Health Exam?

    Obtaining an Agent Orange Registry Health ExamIf you believe you were exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, and you suffer from a medical condition related to this exposure, you can request a VA Agent Orange Registry health exam.

    It’s important to note that this isn’t a Compensation and Pensions (C&P) Exam used for obtaining benefits.

    While there are no medical tests that prove someone was exposed to toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange, there are benefits to having the Agent
    Orange Registry health exam:

    • It can assist in determining if you have a medical condition, illness, or disease that's potentially related to exposure to a toxic herbicide.
    • It helps in the collection of data on veterans who were exposed.
    • It allows follow-up exams if, at any time following your first exam, you develop other medical conditions that might be related to or caused by your exposure to Agent Orange.

    Who’s Eligible?

    Many Vietnam veterans qualify to take the Agent Orange Registry health exam, including those:

    • Who served in Vietnam from 1962–1975.
    • Known as “Brown Water” Veterans who served on small river patrol and swift boats operating on the inland waterways of Vietnam.
    • Known as “Blue Water Navy” Veterans who served on “a vessel operating not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia as defined in Public Law 116-23.”
    • Who served between September 1967 and August 1971 in a unit in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
    • In the U.S. Air Force who served on “Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) bases near U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, and Don Muang, near the air base perimeter anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.”
    • In the U.S. Army between February 1961 and May 1975 who provided perimeter security on RTAF bases in Thailand.
    • In the U.S. Army who were stationed on a small Army installation in Thailand between February 1961 and May 1975. These veterans must have been a “member of a military police (MP) or assigned a military occupational specialty whose duty placed him or her at or near the base perimeter.”

    Cuddigan Law Firm Can Help

    If you’re a Vietnam veteran and believe your medical condition is associated with exposure to Agent Orange, contact Cuddigan Law. Having legal representation and an advocate on your side can provide invaluable assistance with your disability claim. Our attorneys know the medical conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure and can help prove that yours qualifies for disability compensation. Call Cuddigan Law (402) 933-5405 to speak with an intake specialist for free.