The following blog article will relay information on PTSD and how the VA compensates for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. To go directly to the section on compensation, click here.
What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening.
After the event, you may feel scared, confused, or angry. If these feelings don’t go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be terrifying. It may be hard just to get through the day.
PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you probably have PTSD.
There are four types of symptoms: reliving the event, avoidance, numbing, and feeling keyed up.
Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):
Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may have nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger: a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include loud noises, witnessing another traumatic incident, etc.
Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:
You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. For veterans this typically involves avoiding movies and television programs about war, avoiding smells such as types of food and restaurants where the smells are a reminder, avoiding fireworks displays, etc. due to the sound. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.
- You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships
- You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy
- You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal):
You may be jittery or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyperarousal. It can cause you to:
- Suddenly become angry or irritable
- Have a hard time sleeping
- Have trouble concentrating
- Fear for your safety and always feel on guard
- Be very startled when someone surprises you
What are other common problems?
People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:
- Drinking or drug problems
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
- Employment problems
- Relationships problems including divorce and violence
- Physical symptoms
VA Disability Compensation for PTSD
In order to obtain VA disability compensation for PTSD a veteran must prove the following:
- STRESSOR: The VA places the burden on the veteran to first provide evidence that an in-service stressful event called a “stressor” occurred. The VA will “concede” (accept the stressor without further proof) for veterans who have received a combat-related award or decoration such as a Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart, or any number of individual awards for valor.
- DIAGNOSIS: The veteran must have a diagnosis of PTSD from a medical expert such as a psychologist or psychiatrist (counselor’s do not qualify). Additionally, the diagnosis of PTSD must be the result or connected to one or more provable in-service stressors. This is generally referred to as a “nexus”.
Most veterans are in the dark about how the VA actually determines a rating for PTSD. At Bosley & Bratch we believe that this information should be clear and readily available to veterans. If a veteran is granted a service-connected disability for PTSD the VA will assign a rating based on the current severity of the symptoms (not on the severity of the stressful event). The VA actually has published regulations on how it is supposed to rate PTSD claims. The problem is that it’s just one set of regulations buried within thousands of VA regulations. Below are the specific regulations on how the VA is supposed to rate PTSD claims based upon the level of social and occupational impairment as determined by various symptoms. These ratings range from 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, and 100%.
Unfortunately, the VA frequently does not follow its own guidelines and as a result, it underrates.
Veterans with PTSD get assigned lower ratings either because the veteran, who does not understand what is needed, failed to submit sufficient evidence of the severity, or the VA has blatantly disregarded the evidence of the severity of symptoms.
At Bosley & Bratch we know the law. We know what rating the VA should assign based on your symptoms and will obtain evidence to document the severity level. It is this legal knowledge and the ability to hold the VA accountable in a court of law that makes us powerful advocates for veterans.
Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as:
- gross impairment in thought processes or communications
- persistent delusions or hallucinations
- grossly inappropriate behavior
- persistent danger of hurting self or others
- intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene)
- disorientation to time or place
- memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name
Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as:
- suicidal ideation
- obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities
- speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant
- near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively
- impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence)
- spatial disorientation
- neglect of personal appearance and hygiene
- difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting)
- inability to establish and maintain effective relationships
Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as:
- flattened affect
- circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech
- panic attacks more than once a week
- difficulty in understanding complex commands
- impairment of short and long-term memory (e.g. retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks)
- impaired judgment
- impaired abstract thinking
- disturbances of motivation and mood
- difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships
Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent period of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily,
with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as:
- depressed mood
- panic attacks (weekly or less often)
- chronic sleep impairment
- mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events)
Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or; symptoms controlled by continuous medication.
A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication.
Why you may need a Lawyer
The VA’s most frequent basis for denying a PTSD claim is that the veteran has failed to prove an in-service stressor. This is particularly true for older veterans due to the amount of time between service and the disability claim. Veterans may be unable to locate records documenting stressful events or unable to locate witnesses who could document the stressful event. To make matters worse, on July 12, 1973, a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis destroyed 75-80% of the Army and Air Force records for service members who served up to 1964 (1960 for Army and 1964 for Air Force). This has placed an outrageous additional burden on veterans.
How can we help? We have an investigator who is trained and experienced at tracking down evidence to verify stressors whether it be documents or witnesses. In fact, as a result of our success in tracking down witnesses, we are proud to have helped numerous veteran reestablish contact with battle buddies.
The VA’s second most frequent basis for denying is a lack of diagnosis of PTSD.
We would work with your treating doctors (VA and civilian) by providing them helpful information about your condition that may assist in obtaining an accurate diagnosis including statements from the veteran and various family members, friends and co-workers. This is particularly helpful in PTSD cases where veterans find it difficult to express to doctors what they are experiencing.
If you need help improving your disability compensation, contact us today.