Increase in VA Disability Claims for PTSD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common result from combat. Learn how to make a VA disability claim for PTSD, and why you shouldn’t delay getting treatment.
The VA disability claims, and benefits paid out, for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are increasing. By 2016, PTSD was the third most common disability compensated for veterans from all wars, after tinnitus and hearing loss.
PTSD a common result of combat
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the most common mental health disorder experienced by those in combat. The Disabled American Veterans website put together a good report on this topic. They point out that most all veterans will experience some readjustment issues. It’s important to be aware of what a normal readjustment is, compared to the kind of problems that can benefit from professional help.
For people exposed to traumatic situations, such as military combat, as many as one in five may experience PTSD symptoms. Your symptoms may be immediately visible, or they may simmer under the surface for months or years until they’re triggered by an event.
The DVA estimates the rates of PTSD experienced by veterans according to their service area are:
- Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans who served in OIF or OEF will have PTSD in a given year;
- Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans will have PTSD in a given year.
Vietnam War: It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. Filing VA disability claims for PTSD
The first step to getting disability benefits for treatment is to be diagnosed with service-connected PTSD. This typically requires that you first be diagnosed with PTSD, and that the symptoms are consistent with your service experiences. It’s possible if you experienced a traumatic event before service, and your military service made it worse, that you can qualify for benefits – this requires that a doctor affirms that the condition didn’t just worsen due to the natural progress of the disorder, but was aggravated by military service.
After filing a claim, and being diagnosed, you will be measured for the level of impairment, from 0% – 100%, depending on how much the condition interferes with normal life functions. VA compensation payments begin at 10% and increase at each rating level.
PTSD symptoms can appear throughout a veteran’s life. They might show up soon after returning from active duty or they could be triggered in vets 15 – 20 years later. They can still appear in Vietnam vets and those aging vets who served in Korea.
In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs relaxed its claim requirements for veterans seeking PTSD assistance. The old regulations had made it hard and time-consuming to produce all of the required documentation. In 2011, a group of Iraq and Afghanistan vets won a settlement from the VA for a class-action lawsuit regarding disability benefits for PTSD. The tide is turning towards full recognition of the seriousness of PTSD and the need for veterans to receive proper treatment, as they would for a physical disability.
Many Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) provide free services to help veterans apply for disability benefits. Groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and American Legion maintain offices at the regional benefit centers with accredited officers trained to help you file your claims. They help you navigate the process and can increase the chance that you successfully document your PTSD claim.
Better not to delay treatment
It’s never too late to file VA disability claims, but if you’re having PTSD symptoms, it’s better to get treatment right away. Serious stress problems can interfere with your relationships at home and work. Left untreated, they can affect your ability to succeed at work or school and ultimately, your ability to make a living.
Treatment can be a combination of counseling sessions and possibly medication, if needed. Types of counseling can include individual therapy, family therapy, or group therapy – depending on your individual needs. Veterans may be eligible for mental health treatment at VA medical centers or community-based treatment clinics.
PTSD often creates stress-related problems, such as alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, or eating disorders. Stress can also create co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression. These problems can be treated at the same time.
Some veterans may need a rehabilitation plan that could include vocational training and temporary financial assistance. There are many benefits available that you should look into, including those available through the disability compensation program.