Many veterans return home from military service and live full, productive lives. But others develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the life-threatening, traumatic incidents they witnessed or were involved in during duty. Often, symptoms of PTSD occur soon after a veteran’s service has ended, and they may experience nightmares and/or want to avoid situations that remind her of what happened.

But it’s possible for veterans to experience late-onset stress symptomatology (LOSS), where symptoms are similar to PTSD but occur later in life.​

What Is LOSS?

Difference between LOSS and PTSD in aging veterans

Veterans with LOSS experience symptoms years after their military service. They may return from their tour of duty and function well, going on to live relatively normal lives. They work, socialize with friends, and enjoy their families.

But an aging veteran may find that symptoms of PTSD occur, increase, or worsen with age.

There are a variety of reasons for LOSS, including:

  • Retirement may give you more time to reflect on military experiences with fewer responsibilities to distract you from these memories.
  • Medical problems and feeling less strong and vital might increase symptoms.
  • Bad memories may return if you see negative news stories on TV or scenes from current wars.
  • Past coping methods to deal with stress could have included alcohol, medications, and/or other substances. If you stop using them later in life and don’t have better coping methods to use instead, PTSD symptoms can feel much worse.

Veterans who experience LOSS may have fewer symptoms that are less severe than PTSD. But as they confront typical changes that occur with age, such as the loss of loved ones, retirement, children moving away, and health issues, they may start to have increased thoughts about their experiences in the military. Research indicates the aging process can actually be a trigger for PTSD.

Additionally, although LOSS symptoms are often less severe than those for PTSD, veterans with LOSS often experience the same type of symptoms, including, flashbacks, panic attacks, and nightmares.

Methods to Help With LOSS

If you’re an older veteran experiencing LOSS, there are many ways to get help, such as:

  • Stay engaged. It’s helpful to stay active and keep your mind engaged. To do this, exercise is important, as is eating well and participating in activities that interest you.
  • Talk to others. If you can, gather with friends, family members, or other veterans who have spent time in service. Creating a community of people who may have gone through some of the same experiences will help you feel less isolated and alone.
  • Volunteer. Getting involved in an organization that supports something you believe in, or offering to help out at a community center or group that assists others often reduces the severity of LOSS symptoms.
  • Join a support group. PTSD symptoms can worsen when people age and feel lonely, dismissed, or left out. Connecting with others and being part of a group will help alleviate feelings of isolation.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Needing assistance to deal with LOSS is not a weakness—rather, it shows courage and strength to be honest about the emotional issues you have about time in the service. If necessary, talk to a professional.

Choose Cuddigan Law When You Have a VA PTSD Claim

Your experience in the military isn’t something you can easily forget. The life-altering, traumatic events you experienced sometimes lead to PTSD and negatively affect your life.

If you’re a veteran who suffers from PTSD, it’s possible to 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 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