Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to their military service are eligible for VA disability benefits, but the process of being approved for a service connection and disability rating is often misunderstood. If you believe you are entitled to disability benefits for PTSD, it’s important to separate the myths from the facts.
Myth #1: PTSD Is Just a Fancy Name for a Panic Attack
It is vital that you be completely honest with your healthcare provider about the type and severity of symptoms you are experiencing with your condition. In some cases, what you assume is related to PTSD could actually be a secondary condition that may be eligible for additional compensation.
PTSD and panic disorder have similar symptoms, but the cause is different. PTSD is triggered by trauma, while panic disorder is triggered by the experience of a severe panic attack that causes the sufferer to feel as though they’re having a heart attack or spinning out of control. Panic disorder can sometimes be a secondary service-connected disability for a veteran with PTSD—which might make them eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits.
Myth #2: PTSD Only Affects Your Mental Health
Although classified as a mental health disorder, PTSD can lead to a wide range of physical problems. Researchers and healthcare professionals are still learning how stress affects the body, but PTSD is linked to a number of chronic medical problems that can negatively affect a person’s qualify of life.
Some of the conditions that may be related to PTSD and thus eligible for additional VA disability compensation include sleep apnea, TMJ disorder, migraines, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and erectile dysfunction. An attorney can help determine if you have a secondary service connection for any additional disabilities related to your PTSD.
Myth #3: PTSD Results in an Automatic 50% Rating
PTSD cases are rated individually based on their severity. To win your claim, you need to be able to accurately document your symptoms and the service-connected stressor.
Veterans only receive an automatic 50% rating for PTSD if the condition develops while they are on active duty and the symptoms are severe enough to result in their separation from service. Even then, the automatic 50% rating is only valid for six months, and the veteran’s condition will be re-evaluated after that time.
Myth #4: Getting Disability Benefits Means You’ll Need to Give Up Your Guns
If you regularly use firearms for recreation, protection, and/or employment, you might be worried that receiving VA disability benefits for PTSD will result in a loss of gun rights. While every situation is unique, this is seldom the case.
Only veterans with a 100% rating for PTSD have their gun rights affected—and a rating of this level is very rare because it requires a veteran to be completely unable to manage a daily routine due to their mental health struggles. A veteran with a 100% rating that is due to PTSD and a co-occurring non-mental health disorder would not have their gun rights affected.
The VA doesn’t report veterans to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System run by the FBI unless they’ve been appointed a fiduciary to manage their benefits due to total incapacity. This report is what triggers a loss of gun rights.
Myth #5: If Your Application Is Denied, You Don’t Qualify for Benefits
The VA reports that 75% of initial disability benefit claims are denied. Often, this is due to missing information, incomplete paperwork, or an incorrect interpretation of the law.
Veterans have the right to appeal a denial of benefits, and there are several stages of the process you can go through. Between 40% and 45% of appeals are approved when the veteran is represented by an attorney.
Do You Need to Speak With a Veterans Benefits Lawyer?
If you need to speak with an experienced veterans benefits lawyer, please contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia, including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk.