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Claiming PTSD

A straightforward process helps veterans

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There is a four-step process by which veterans can receive a disability from the Veterans Health Administration for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

First, tell the truth. 

That's right - don't lie to the VA.  The folks who work there are not stupid.  They know that veterans need the VA's help; they also do not need veterans lying to them.  So, tell the truth when filing a claim for PTSD.

Let's face it, most combat veterans do not trust the federal government or the VA.  This is understandable considering the treatment a lot of veterans received during and after the Vietnam War. 

That said, the VA has improved its way of doing business, and the benefits are there for veterans experiencing PTSD.

Second, in order to receive benefits veterans must file a claim.

This requires some effort, but the fact remains that veterans must make the first move.

In filing a claim, veterans must not only prove they were in combat; they must also prove that they were in the military.  This process screens out the phony combat veterans.

With a claim, veterans must provide a copy of their DD-214, all military records, a personnel (201) file and proof of combat awards or other reports that document the traumatic event.  Diary entries or statements from individuals who witnessed the event or events are helpful.  The more information provided the better.

There is help available in filing a claim.  In fact, one of the primary tenets of the American Veterans, or AMVETS, is to help veterans file claims for disability.  So use it. 

This organization will send you a power of attorney statement.  Veterans should sign this document; the signature gives the AMVETS permission to represent veterans in their claims.  The AMVETS begins the claim process by sending the veteran's claim forward to the VA regional office.

Now, the third step.

At some point either after the claim has been filed or before the stressor letter (more about this soon) is filed, the veteran will be asked to go to the nearest VA hospital for a compensation examination.

At this examination, a psychiatrist evaluates the veteran filing a claim.  Do not blow this meeting off, and do not go into the examination with the attitude that the psychiatrist is the enemy. The psychiatrist is impartial, so answer the questions honestly and show the negative effects of PTSD.

With the claim filed, veterans should receive a letter from the VA within 30 to 60 days stating that a disability claim for PTSD has been filed.  Claimants are then asked to submit a stressor letter.

This letter, the final step in the process, is most important; veterans must write about how they believe past combat related events have resulted in PTSD.

If for some reason a veteran cannot write about the experiences or cannot write well, ask a trusted individual to help.

The message should reflect the disability.

In the letter, the following should be included: name, rank, service number, dates of time in a war zone, and any wounds received.  Further, the letter should document whether or not the veteran killed the enemy, witnessed the death of Americans, saw civilian dead, worked on body detail or had thoughts that he or she would not survive.  And last, include all incidents of combat, names of operations and how life has changed because of combat.

A rating board will evaluate the stressor letter.  This board determines whether or not veterans are entitled to any benefits resulting from PTSD.  If the letter is rejected, they can appeal the board's decision.

Bottom line - don't give up.  The resources are in place to help veterans who believe they are suffering from PTSD. 

Need a start?  Contact the American Legion at (800) 433-3318 or contact the local VA Hospital.

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