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.


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