Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often affects service personnel when they return stateside after their deployments. So, it’s easy to assume this medical condition primarily impacts younger veterans.

However, many veterans don’t experience symptoms of PTSD until years and sometimes decades after their time in service—a condition known as late-onset PTSD. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals are seeing an increase in senior veterans who are seeking treatment for newly-emerging PTSD symptoms.

What Is Late-Onset PTSD?

What is late-onset PSTD?In general, late-onset PTSD is a condition where PTSD symptoms occur many years after a traumatic event occurred. For veterans, a traumatic, life-changing incident may have happened during active duty, but it produced few symptoms until those veterans got older.

As people age, there are numerous significant life changes that can act as triggers for late-onset PTSD, including:

  • Health issues. As a veteran ages, he may suffer from serious health issues that cause him to confront his mortality in ways he might have during active duty. These fears and anxiety can bring about PTSD symptoms.
  • Get-togethers with other veterans. Reunions with other veterans are important, as they're often positive gatherings that provide social and emotional support for those who’ve experienced and lived through the same type of horrific events during military service. However, these interactions can also be reminders of a terrible time and bring to the surface thoughts a veteran hasn’t had or been conscious of for many years.
  • Retirement. Being employed after active duty served as a daily distraction for many veterans, and holding down a job and going to work every day provided a coping strategy. When veterans retire and that structure is no longer in place, they have more leisure time and more opportunities to contemplate the past and remember events they’ve tried to put behind them. They may also lose a sense of identity when they're no longer making money or contributing to society the way they did in the past.
  • Loss. As veterans age, they face uncertainty of the future as they experience deaths of friends, family members, siblings, and spouses. Even the death of a pet can bring on feelings of survivor guilt, loss, regret, and remorse for events that occurred in the past.
  • Lack of treatment. Many veterans don’t consider the events they witnessed during military service as trauma. Thus, they don’t seek medical help because they attribute their health issues to other conditions; or they feel a sense of shame and guilt about the events and remain quiet about how these memories affect them. Additionally, it’s less common for senior veterans to be screened for PTSD.

The VA recognizes late-onset PTSD as a real health issue and provides various services to veterans, including group and individual therapy. Because it’s possible to treat PTSD, veterans are encouraged to seek medical and professional help no matter when they begin to experience symptoms.

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 veterans 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