Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition associated with traumatic life events. PTSD is common among Veterans who have served in combat zones or those who have been victims of physical or sexual assault while serving in the military.
Veterans most often develop PTSD shortly after a triggering event. However, the condition can also develop months or even years later.
Someone with PTSD will:
- Re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoid people, situations, or events that trigger memories of the trauma
- Describe oneself as feeling “on edge” and anxious or fearful
- Believe that other people are not to be trusted or that the world has become a very dangerous place
To qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD, a Veteran must be experiencing symptoms lasting longer than four weeks that are severe enough to cause great distress and interfere with the activities of daily living.
How PTSD Affects a Veteran’s Daily Life
Every case is different, but PTSD can lead to:
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of isolation
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
The symptoms of PTSD may lead to problems maintaining relationships with family and friends. Veterans may also struggle to maintain employment due to their condition.
Often, Veterans with PTSD will attempt to self-medicate their symptoms with drugs or alcohol.
This can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
Treatment of PTSD
PTSD can’t be cured in the traditional sense, but the condition can be managed with treatment. This typically involves a combination of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication, as well as psychotherapy. Specific types of psychotherapy used to treat PTSD include cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
The VA has almost 200 PTSD treatment centers across the United States. Phone counseling (called telemental health care) is also available.
Receiving VA Disability Benefits for Service-Connected PTSD
VA disability benefits, including medical care and monthly cash payments, are available for Veterans with PTSD that can be linked to their military service. To be eligible, you must:
- Be diagnosed with PTSD by a healthcare provider
- Provide a written statement about the traumatic event that occurred during your military service
- Submit a written medical opinion from a psychologist or psychiatrist that states your stressor was significant enough to result in PTSD
If you have proof that the event you believe triggered your PTSD occurred, you can submit this proof with your application. This is not required but can make it slightly easier to get your application approved.
If you suffered from PTSD before you entered the military, you might still be able to receive disability benefits. However, you will need to be able to prove what is referred to as an aggravated service connection. This means you must submit medical evidence showing your military service made your PTSD worse.
PTSD, like other types of service-connected disabilities, is assigned a VA rating ranging from 10% to 100%. If your PTSD is currently well-controlled with therapy and medication, you might receive a lower rating, such as 10% or 20%. If your condition is so severe that you are unable to work full-time despite your treatment efforts, you can be assigned a much higher rating. However, ratings of 100% are difficult to obtain unless you also have another service-connected disability. For example, a Veteran with PTSD following a TBI may have other serious impairments related to his brain injury.
How We Can Help
VA disability law is continually changing, and small mistakes can lead to your application being denied. The best way to protect your right to benefits is to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney who can help you thoroughly document your service-connected PTSD.
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, has more than 20 years of experience helping Veterans access the benefits they deserve for the sacrifices they’ve made on behalf of our country. If you’re former Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, call our Boulder, Colorado office today or fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.