Veterans PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

July 30 2007

Veterans PTSD - VA PTSD, Veterans Disability Benefits Lawsuit About 20 percent of war veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan experience some degree of veterans PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as a result of having been witness to, or directly impacted by, attack, ambush, serious injury or death. PTSD is also referred to as "shell shock" or "combat fatigue". Many post traumatic stress disorder veterans who were denied PTSD veteran disability benefits are now having their claims re-evaluated, in response to a recent VA PTSD class action lawsuit filed by combat veterans.

About Veterans PTSD

Veterans PTSD occurs when a vet has experienced a stressful event while he or she was in service. Post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers is not limited to combat; PTSD is a result of a traumatic event that occurred in service. According to Veterans Affairs 60,000 US service personnel have been wounded or have struggled with war trauma after their tours in Iraq since 2003, and that up to one-third of all those suffer from PTSD Iraq.

Veterans Post Traumatic Stress DisorderPTSD symptoms include flashbacks, vivid nightmares, intrusive thoughts, exaggerated startle response, emotional numbness and more. PTSD is recognized as debilitating: information for PTSD treatment can be found online at the National Center for PTSD.

In 2008, a study by the Rand Corp. estimated that 300,000 veterans of the current wars were suffering from PTSD or major depression. According to the VA, however, as of Fiscal Year 2009, nearly 390,000 veterans were receiving ptsd veteran disability benefits, making it the fourth-most prevalent service-connected disability.

According to a government report, more than 134,000 veterans of about 1.6 million troops who served in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq were seen at VA health care facilities for "potential PTSD" as of late 2009. It is not known how many veterans received treatment for PTSD. Researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School and Stanford University estimate that the PTSD Iraq War veterans will be about 35 percent.

Do you Qualify for VA PTSD Disability Benefits?

Veterans PTSD Disability BenefitsThe following disability types will help determine whether you qualify for VA disability benefits:

Direct Service Connection means your disability was diagnosed during the time you were serving and continues to negatively affect you today.

Presumptive Service Connection means the VA predetermines that your disability is connected to your "time," "place," and "type" of military service.

Aggravation Service Connection requires evidence that your condition existed prior to your military service and has worsened as a result of service.

Secondary Service Connection requires evidence to the VA that your disability or injury is the result of another service-connected disability or injury. It's possible to obtain this rating by proving that a service-connected condition caused a new disability, or made a pre-existing or non-service connected disability worse.

Injured as a result of VA medical treatment occurs due to poor treatment at a VA hospital. These benefits may also be granted to veterans who have an existing injury that was aggravated due to medical malpractice at a VA hospital.

PTSD and Risperdal Study

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs suggests that Risperdal, prescribed to treat PTSD in veterans, may be no more effective than a placebo. According to the study, after six months of treatment, five percent of participants who were given Risperdal and five percent of patients given a placebo responded fully to their treatment, while between 10 percent and 20 percent in both groups reported some improvement. Furthermore, patients in the Risperdal group reportedly were more likely to suffer side effects, including weight gain and fatigue. Risperdal is an atypical antipsychotic medication.

PTSD and Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure

According to a study published in Neurology (9/6/11), veterans who experience non-epileptic seizures--also referred to as "emotion-related seizures"--may be incorrectly diagnosed with epileptic seizures. The study, conducted by Dr. Martin Salinsky of the Portland VA Medical Center and the Oregon Health & Sciences University, revealed that because the two conditions present themselves similarly, psychogenic non-epileptic seizures may be misdiagnosed as epilepsy.

The study also showed that veterans who were diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures were diagnosed on average five years after the onset of symptoms; for civilians diagnosed with the condition, diagnosis only took an average one year. For roughly 60 percent of the veterans included in the study, their seizures were attributed to traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Of note, according to Dr. Salinsky, many of the veterans in the study who were ultimately diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures were prescribed epilepsy drugs prior to being given their proper diagnosis. This, he states, may cause serious, unwanted side effects and also will not help with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.

VA PTSD Disability Claims Re-Evaluated

In 2008 more than 600,000 American veterans were waiting for decisions from the VA on disability benefit applications, many of them PTSD claims. Of those initial decisions that are appealed, more than 50 percent are reversed. On average, the appeals were taking from four to 10 years to resolve.

Veterans PTSD Long-Term DisabilityRecent events, however, will streamline this process and secure PTSD veteran disability benefits.

Veterans can now hire attorneys to represent them for benefits before the Veterans Administration. Prior to this recent legislation, attorneys have been prohibited from charging a fee to represent veterans at the administrative level.

In December 2008 a class-action suit, Sabo v. United States, was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims by seven veterans who suffer from PTSD but who were denied a required rating to make them eligible for a variety of long-term benefits. The lawsuit claims that between December 2002 and October 2008, the military illegally denied benefits to an entire class of service members who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD and were discharged from service.

One year later, a federal judge in Washington accepted a list of about 4,300 veterans who may also have been improperly denied PTSD benefits. Veterans VA Healthcare ChildrenThe court's notice invites veterans to join a class action lawsuit filed in December 2008 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims by signing and submitting an "opt-in" form no later than July 24, 2010.

The disability ratings which are the subject of the lawsuit are extremely important to veterans with PTSD. A permanent disability rating of 30 percent or more entitles a veteran to monthly disability benefits for the rest of the veteran's life, to free health care for the veteran and his or her spouse for life, and to free health care for their minor children. (In previous years, a disability rating of 50 percent was required to receive disability benefits.) Because the ratings are increased, class members may be entitled to back pay of disability benefits, reimbursement for health care expenses the military should have covered, and future benefits.

Legislation was recently introduced to streamline the "broken" VA claims process, especially for veterans in traditionally non-combat roles. In the past, the VA required independent proof that a traumatizing event--also known as a "stressor--occurred. Under the proposed changes, a veteran's "lay testimony" about what happened to him is sufficient,<Veterans Disability Legislation as long as it "is related to the veteran's fear of hostile military or terrorist activity" and is "consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the veteran's service."

As of January 2010, the Disability Evaluation System program will expand to thirty-three installations. (Currently, there are twenty-seven military facilities that take part in the program.) The six new installations will include: Fort Benning, GA.; Fort Bragg, NC.; Fort Hood, TX; Fort Lewis, WA.; Fort Riley, KS.; and Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, VA. If a disabled veteran does not use this program at one of the above facilities, their evaluation will be reviewed by the Defense Department physicians, then by the VA—a long and complicated process. The Disability Evaluation Systems program allows veterans to undergo just one medical exam and obtain a single-sourced disability rating—and receive VA disability benefit payments without a long wait.

Other Veteran Psychological Disorders

Under a new regulation, mental conditions other than PTSD, such as an adjustment disorder or depression, are being re-evaluated. A number of veterans may want to check their ratings to determine whether they were properly awarded benefits. The Code of Federal Regulations (38 CFR § 4.129) states that:
    "When a mental disorder that develops in service as the result of a stressful event is severe enough to bring about the veteran's release from active military service, the rating agency shall assign an evaluation of not less than 50% and schedule an examination within a six month period following the veteran's discharge to determine whether a change in evaluation is warranted".
If this regulation was improperly applied to you, contact the VA Department Service Officer or an experienced VA disability attorney, who can determine the best course of action and possibly have your claim re-evaluated.

Veterans PTSD Legal Help

If you or a loved one has suffered damages in this health care case, please fill in the form to the right to send your complaint to a lawyer to evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.
Last updated September 9 2011