New Rules for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

From the desk of John Hanson:

For more than a generation, combat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often found themselves arguing with the Department of Veterans Affairs about the existence of their very real disability.  It was often a case of both sides having the facts right, but arguing with an enormous bureaucracy doesn’t always go well.

The VA is mandated to rate disabilities and compensate veterans for them.  Sometimes it’s easy – a veteran shows up with a missing limb and a Purple Heart, the case is pretty easy to make.  However, some wounds are not so obvious.

For decades, veterans have had difficulty connecting the dots between exposure to a combat trauma and their disabilities.  This is not an example of a standoff between a deserving claimant and hide-bound government workers.  Sometimes VA just gets it wrong, but much of the time there’s a problem with a veterans military records.

Korean War veterans salute the American flag during a ceremony at the Pentagon marking the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, June 24, 2010. (Army photo by D. Myles Cullen)

There have been efforts in the past to make the connection easier.  For example, the receipt of a Purple Heart or a valor ribbon or a combat action badge and its equivalents help to make the case between exposure to combat and trauma.

But, the older the case, the harder it is to justify.  If a veteran’s service didn’t include direct combat, but the horror of its aftermath, proving a claim for PTSD can be a challenge.  At times, it seems that having to deal with the paperwork might drive people closer to the brink than the actual stressors they were exposed to.  That caused delays  — sometimes decades-long delays.  For PTSD and traumatic brain injury, justice delayed really can be justice denied.

It is not uncommon for these veterans to lose their jobs or their families.  They might resort to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.  Those results might well have been different if the process were easier.

The military has attempted to make it easier for these “invisible” injuries to be documented.  Interviews with troops in the field are intended to document exposure to combat, combat trauma and explosions.  Sometimes those report were matched with troops’ medical records.  Sometimes they weren’t.  To complicate things further, troops were not always candid with their interviewers, because they didn’t want to risk being separated from their comrades.

The VA’s New Approach

The government’s new rules for PTSD should make the claims process as simple and straightforward as it can be.  If your doctor verifies your symptoms and your records show you were in the war, the claim will likely be allowed.  That’s the way it should be.

I know there are critics who will say that some veterans will attempt to scam the system.  Maybe, but those cases are almost always found out.  The greater danger is that the system stays the way it is – putting an unreasonable burden on veterans to prove their case and hope for the best.

We owe troops more than their support while they’re in uniform.  We have to recognize that sometimes the things we ask them to do can harm them in ways they cannot imagine.  And we need to make sure they are able to recover and reintegrate after they leave the military.  It’s what a great nation does.

For more information, please visit www.va.gov or call the VA’s toll free benefits number at 1-800-827-1000.

2 thoughts on “New Rules for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

  1. My ex husband was in the Navy for two years and never went to battle.
    He suffered anxiety from having a dysfunctional family. He went to
    work for the VA as a Veterans Advocate in Hauppauge. He met a family to help with there Va benefits and could not connect the mans cancer to a VA claim so he asked me to mortgage my home. When I refused he left my home and moved in with this family because the wife was going to loose her home. This family supported him hoping he could connect VA benefits. He soon after decided to claim 100% disability for PTSD with his own VA claim and at the same time retired with full disability pension and disability social security. He was always a nervous guy. People who do know the system can abuse the diagnosis PTSD. We have since divorced right after her left our family and moved in with the other family but I feel the system is corrupt. I struggle to take care of my own children every day., work two jobs.,
    My exhusband told everyone he was in Viet nam but he was in the Navy in the med. He used his own position to further his disability claim. I always believed you had to be atleast in a war zone to get PTSD and could never understand what he was trying to do. His family was dysfunctional not his Navy days. Well it is sad that people like him ruin it for the real disabled. Since the family that he moved in with now husband died he even put the widow on his healthplan. Give me a break with systems

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