Many veterans suffer from a condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
PTSD is a mental health condition, which, according to the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostics and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) is: “[T]he development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury or other threat to one’s physical integrity…[the response to which is] intense fear, helplessness, or horror.”
This medical condition often does not appear for weeks, months or years. Whenever a Veteran is diagnosed with PTSD, however,service-connected PTSD surfaces, it is a compensable condition and the veteran is entitled to disability benefits.
Military Veterans often find it difficult to prove to the VA that the PTSD is service connected. I hope that by outlining the general requirements for proving a claim for PTSD to the VA, more veterans are able to secure compensation for what can be a horribly debilitating disease.
There are three (3) factors that a veteran must show to secure disability compensation for PTSD:
1) Obviously, the veteran must be diagnosed with PTSD. So, the first requirement is that the Veteran provide medical evidence of this diagnosis. The VA often misdiagnoses PTSD; if you feel that a VA doctor has misdiagnosed you, you can always seek evaluation by a private psychiatrist or psychologist.
2) Next, the veteran must proved that the trigger, or stressor, for the PTSD, occurred in service. This is called the “in-service stressor”, and there are two very different sets of rules applicable to those Veterans that experience a Combat Stressor, or those veterans that experience a non-combat stressor. The evidence needs to be credible – something or someone to corroborate the in-service stressor is always helpful, but corroboration is not the only thing that makes a particular version of events credible.
3) Lastly, you will need to prove the connection, or linkage, between the diagnosed PTSD and the “in-service stressor”. This is often the hardest element of the three to prove. Usually, evidence from a lay or medical expert who opines that the in-service stressor was a “contributing factor” to the symptoms of the PTSD should be enough to secure service-connection for the PTSD connection.
If you are a US Veteran heading out to Iraq or Afghanistan, you should anticipate a strong likelihood that you will return from your service with PTSD. I strongly recommend that before heading overseas, you have an independent psychologist or psychiatrist do a “baseline test” for PTSD. Do not provide this test to the military, and do not use a military doctor. Save the report at home with your important papers, and when you return, if you are diagnosed with PTSD, you should be able to prove, convincingly, that the P.T.S.D was caused by military service.
If you are a U.S. Veteran and have questions about your service-connected disability benefits or VA claims, contact an experienced Veterans Disability Benefits attorney.