New VA Rule Will Make Disability Claims Easier for PTSD

We recently wrote that the VA Department’s agency chief Eric Shinseki acknowledged, at a Congressional panel, that the Department made serious safety errors at some of its centers and was lax in conducting necessary educational and monetary services to thousands of veterans, citing The Washington Times. The veterans were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and reported suffering from symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Now, The New York Times is reporting that a new VA rule will ease veterans’ disability claims for PTSD. In addition to helping veterans suffering from PTSD as a result of their time spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rule will also help veterans impacted by the Vietnam War, said the New York Times. The change is expected to help “hundreds of thousands of veterans,” wrote the New York Times.

The new regulations, issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs, are expected to become effective as soon as Monday and are also expected to cost about $5 billion-over several years—wrote The New York Times, citing Congressional analysts. The rule will abolish the mandate that veterans document some of the horrors they endured, including bombings and other attacks, noted The New York Times.

According to the VA, PTSD “is an anxiety disorder that can occur” following a trauma. The VA describes trauma as “something horrible and scary” and included events involving “combat or military exposure.” PTSD, said the VA, “can be terrifying” and disruptive to the point where it is difficult to “continue with … daily activities.”

PTSD symptoms can initiate at any time from shortly following the event to months, even years, following the event and can come and go over time, explained the VA. The VA noted that if symptoms persist for over one month, lead to distress, or cause interruptions in home and work life, PTSD is the likely culprit. Four key indicators for PTSD, said the VA, are reliving the event (re-experiencing symptoms), avoiding situations reminiscent of the event, “feeling numb,” and hyper arousal (always on alert, feeling jittery). PTSD is known to be associated with drinking or drug and physical problems; emotional problems, including feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair; and employment and relationship problems.

Veterans groups claim today’s rules are discriminatory against those who, although they did not serve in combat, did suffer trauma, said The New York Times. Under the new rule, the department will grant compensation to those with PTSD if they can show they worked in a war zone with situations that match what they allege to have experienced, said The New York Times. Compensation will also be made for those who claim valid reasons for fearing trauma even if the so-called stressors were not experienced first-hand, said The New York Times.

Benefits include physical and mental health care and monthly payments that as high as $2,000, said The New York Times, which pointed out that over 150,000 cases of PTSD have been diagnosed by the VA in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and that “thousands more diagnoses” have been received from private physicians. According to Paul Sullivan, executive director of the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense, records indicate the VA approved PTSD disability claims for a mere 78,000 veterans.

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