Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among Veterans who’ve experienced trauma during their military service, but this condition is often misunderstood. PTSD is more than mere combat stress, and it’s important to avoid trying to make a self-diagnosis. A formal diagnosis will allow you to access the treatment you need while supporting your claim for VA disability benefits.
How a Doctor Diagnoses PTSD
There are four general criteria that must be present for a person to be diagnosed with PTSD:
- A stressor, such as being attacked or witnessing someone else being severely injured
- Intrusive symptoms, such as nightmares or flashbacks
- Avoidance-related behaviors used as a way to cope with intrusive symptoms
- Negative alterations in mood and thinking
If you think you might have PTSD, your doctor will first perform a physical exam to rule out any medical problems that could be causing your symptoms. For example, heart disease can also cause heart palpitations or trouble sleeping.
When physical illness or injury has been ruled out, your doctor will conduct a psychological evaluation. You may be asked to complete the PCL-5, which is a 20-item self-reported questionnaire that covers the symptoms of PTSD outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
The PCL-5 can be used to make a provisional diagnosis, but it should be followed by a structured clinical interview. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5) is a 30-item assessment suitable for use with adults and children over the age of seven. Questions discuss the onset and duration of symptoms, as well as how symptoms affect social function, impairment in development, and subjective distress.
Applying for VA Disability Benefits
If your doctor believes you have PTSD caused by your military service, you should apply for VA disability benefits as soon as possible. An approval gives you access to cash compensation as well as healthcare benefits to treat your condition.
PTSD is considered a high-value claim. The average rating for a Veteran approved for PTSD benefits is 70%, and 50% of all approved claims are assigned a rating of 50% or higher. In many cases, Veterans with PTSD are strong candidates for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits that provide the same compensation as a 100% disability rating.
Contact the office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, to request a free, no-obligation consultation to learn how we can help you access the benefits you’ve earned in the service of your country.