Veterans Benefits for PTSD
WHAT IS PTSD AND WHAT CAUSES IT?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition. It is caused by exposure to stressful events. Many veterans develop PTSD from exposure to stressful events during their military service. These stressful events are known as “in-service stressors.” There are many common in-service stressors that can lead to PTSD:
- Fear of hostile military or terrorist activity
- Military sexual trauma or other personal assault
- Any other traumatic events occurring during service, whether related to service or not.
Veterans who develop PTSD from stressors during military service are often eligible for veterans disability compensation benefits. In order to qualify for benefits for PTSD, veterans need to establish the following:
- Occurrence of an in-service stressor
- A current diagnosis of PTSD
- A nexus between the in-service stressor and the current PTSD disability.
HOW DO I PROVE MY PTSD IS RELATED TO MY MILITARY SERVICE?
There are special rules regarding PTSD and military service. If you served in combat, you do not need to provide any evidence, other than your combat service, to support the occurrence of the stressor.
If your PTSD is based on the fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, you will need a mental health professional to confirm that the claimed stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD. The mental health professional will also need to confirm that your symptoms are related to the claimed stressor. You will also need to show that the fear was consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of your service.
If you were a victim of military sexual trauma or personal assault, you may have difficulty proving the occurrence of the assault with service or treatment records since many service members do not report these assaults. Fortunately, VA cannot rely on the lack of a report to conclude the assault did not happen. Instead of using a report made at the time of the assault, a veteran may prove the in-service assault occurred through alternative evidence. This alternative evidence can take many forms including:
- Records generated by law enforcement, hospitals, and/or counselors
- Pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases
- Statements from family members, roommates, fellow service members, and/or clergy
- Evidence of behavior changes after the assault may help establish the claimed assault occurred (these could include requests for transfers, deterioration in work performance, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, unexplained social or economic changes, and other behavior changes).
WHAT ARE THE VA DISABILITY RATINGS FOR PTSD?
Like all disabilities, PTSD is rated using the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). PTSD is rated under the Mental Disorders Section which can be found at Title 38, Chapter 1, Section 4.130. PTSD is generally rated at 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100 percent.
Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder find it difficult to work. If you have PTSD and have difficulty working or maintaining employment, it is important to understand that you may be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. Your PTSD rating percentage or combined rating percentage (if you have more than one disability) is extremely important in qualifying for TDIU benefits.
HOW DO I KNOW IF VA DECIDED MY PTSD CLAIM CORRECTLY?
PTSD presents many types of challenges for those who suffer with it. Dealing with VA and its often inaccurate processing of PTSD claims makes it even more difficult. When you receive a rating decision, VA may conclude that you do not have PTSD. VA may conclude that you have not shown that your PTSD is service-connected, either because the current symptoms are not related to the in-service stressor or because VA concludes the claimed stressor did not occur. Even if VA grants service connection, they may not give you a correct rating or effective date. If you want to appeal an error made by VA, you need to file a notice of disagreement.
Sometimes, you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of another condition. Also, PTSD may cause or aggravate other conditions such as a heart condition or sleep apnea. If you develop PTSD secondary to another service-connected condition, the PTSD should be service-connected as well. Also, if you develop another disability because of service-connected PTSD or that condition becomes worse because of your PTSD, then the other condition should also be service-connected. However, you will probably need to apply through VA to get the secondary condition established as service-connected. If you did apply, you need to make sure VA decided all those issues in the ratings decision.
PTSD is often service-connected. It often makes it difficult or impossible to work If you suffer from PTSD as a result of your military service, it is important to apply for benefits. If you have been denied by VA or not granted the full amount of your benefits, we can help you appeal your case. To find out more, just call us or complete the “Need Help” form on the right side of this page to set up a free consultation.
Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims. He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.
You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.