Many soldiers experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while on active duty but may not realize they’re suffering from this medical condition. After witnessing or being involved in a traumatic, life-altering event, some military personnel might not understand the changes in their personal behavior; or be able to cope with the nightmares and flashbacks that often follow a traumatic incident and resort to substance abuse to cope.

If you’re a soldier on active military duty and believe you may have PTSD, it’s important to seek treatment for it while you’re in service.

Being Diagnosed While in Service Can Help You

Although many active military men and women might be reluctant to admit they have a mental health issue, there are a variety of benefits to getting an in-service diagnosis of PTSD, including:

  • It can help you avoid a dishonorable discharge. It’s possible that your PTSD may cause changes in your personality and/or conduct problems that could lead to a dishonorable discharge. If this happens, you're unable to obtain benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) when you return to civilian life. Additionally, you won't receive an automatic discharge upgrade after six months. Thus, it’s in your own best interests to get diagnosed and receive treatment while you’re still on active duty.
  • It can help prove your PTSD is service-connected. If you apply for VA disability after returning home, having an in-service diagnosis helps validate that your PTSD is service-connected. It also helps establish an early effective date for the onset of your mental health condition.
  • It can protect you from being refused VA healthcare. Not only does an in-service diagnosis helps you retain potential VA disability benefits, but it also protects you from being refused VA healthcare. If your PTSD began while you were on active duty and you sought medical help and treatment, you won't be refused VA healthcare due to “willful misconduct” if you were dishonorably discharged. Your PTSD diagnosis can confirm that any inappropriate behavior was due to your illness and not intentional.

How a PTSD Diagnosis Will Affect Your Military Career

Receiving PTSD treatment while on active dutyWhile many men and women in service may believe that being diagnosed with PTSD can end their careers, the truth is that, in some cases, seeking help may actually protect them. If you seek medical care and get treatment instead of letting your PTSD develop into poor conduct problems and other serious issues, it can be viewed that you took positive steps to address your symptoms.

Additionally, some soldiers believe they’ll lose their security clearance if they’re diagnosed with PTSD, and this isn’t true. Because you sought help for your symptoms, it also may be seen as positive action and could allow for the continuation of your security clearance.

It’s true that there’s been a stigma in the military about PTSD, and personnel have been reluctant to admit when they have symptoms of this medical condition. However, the stigma is decreasing, and active duty military members are beginning to understand they have a right not to be penalized for behavior or actions that are a result of their PTSD.

Cuddigan Law Can Help With Your PTSD Claim

The experienced legal team at Cuddigan Law recognizes and respects the sacrifices all military personnel make 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