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
PTSD 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?
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
PTSD and Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizure
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
Recent 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. The 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,< 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
"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".