Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common mental health issue experienced by veterans of the United States Armed Forces when they return home from combat.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a service member experiences a traumatic event, also known as a stressor, in which the service member:
- Was at risk of dying
- Witnessed another person die or suffer a severe injury
- Was raped or sexually harassed
In some cases, the service member begins experiencing PTSD soon after the traumatic event. In other cases, PTSD takes months or years to begin affecting a veteran.
Common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Feelings of intense horror, helplessness or fear
- Feeling emotionally numb, detached, depressed or disinterested in normal activities
- Persistent thoughts and nightmares about the event
- Replaying or re-living the event again and again
- Constantly watching for danger
- Avoiding situations that could trigger symptoms
- Not discussing the event with anyone
Our trusted Savannah veterans’ disability lawyers can help you determine if your PTSD qualifies for benefits.
WHO QUALIFIES FOR PTSD BENEFITS?
If you are a U.S. veteran who suffers from PTSD due to a traumatic event during your military service, you may be eligible for veteran’s disability benefits.
However, you will not qualify for benefits unless you can prove three things, according to 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §3.304(f):
CREDIBLE EVIDENCE THAT THE STRESSOR OCCURRED
As long as there is no clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, and the stressor in question is consistent with the circumstances, conditions or hardships of your service, the only credible evidence you need is your personal testimony.
This applies to most situations, including those where you were engaged in combat with the enemy, you were a prisoner of war or you were fearful of hostile military or terrorist activity.
However, if your claim is based on an assault that occurred during your service, you may need more evidence, which could include:
- Service records
- Records from law enforcement, rape crisis centers, hospitals or mental health centers
- Statements from roommates, service members, clergy or family members
These pieces of evidence may be used to show behavior changes after the alleged assault. Behavior changes that would be considered credible evidence of a stressor include:
- Request for a transfer to another assignment
- Deteriorating work performance
- Substance abuse
- Panic attacks
In some cases, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will submit evidence it receives to an appropriate medical or mental health professional for an opinion about whether the alleged assault actually occurred.
Other stressors that require corroboration beyond your testimony include:
- Plane crashes caused by severe weather
- Severe motor vehicle accidents
- Witnessing death, injury or threat of injury or death to another person caused by something other than hostile military or terrorist activity
MEDICAL EVIDENCE OF PTSD
You need credible medical evidence that you have PTSD. Your diagnosis must conform to the requirements in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
EVIDENCE OF A SERVICE CONNECTION
You also need medical evidence showing that the stressor is connected to your service and is the primary cause of your condition and not a preexisting medical issue or another event that was unrelated to your service.
Evidence could include:
- Service records
- Evidence of your military occupation
- Records for hazard pay
- Service treatment records
- Military performance reports
- Monthly summaries and morning reports
- Verification that you received combat/imminent danger/hostile fire pay
APPLYING FOR VETERANS’ DISABILITY FOR PTSD
You can apply online through the website or by completing VA Form 21-526 and submitting it to the nearest VA regional office.
You will need to include:
- DD214 Certificate of Release of Discharge from Active Duty or separation papers from your periods of service.
- Medical records, including the mental health evaluation performed at a VA facility
You may also want to include Form 21-4138 Statement in Support of a Claim, detailing your personal narrative of the events that triggered your PTSD symptoms. Accounts of family and friends who have witnessed the impact of your PTSD may also be included.
If you are a veteran who is suffering from PTSD related to your service, you may be entitled to various forms of disability compensation. The Nye Law Group will see you through the claims process, working to secure all of the benefits you are entitled.