Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common service-connected conditions that qualifies for veterans disability benefits. However, these claims are often denied due to misinterpretations of the law or incomplete applications that fail to adequately document the veteran’s symptoms. If you’re suffering from PTSD, an experienced veterans benefits attorney can help you protect your right to compensation.
PTSD Symptoms and Treatment Options
Many veterans are reluctant to seek treatment for PTSD because they mistake their symptoms for simple combat stress. However, PTSD is a serious mental health condition characterized by:
- Nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event
- Feeling constantly anxious, fearful, and “on edge”
- Believing that other people can’t be trusted and that the world is a very dangerous place
- Avoiding events, situations, or people that are linked to memories of the traumatic triggering event
To be considered for PTSD disability benefits, a veteran’s symptoms must last for more than four weeks and be severe enough to interfere with their daily activities. This might include having trouble concentrating at work, being angry or irritable around loved ones, or suffering from fatigue and unexplained physical symptoms that make it difficult to engage in previously enjoyed hobbies or special interests. In serious cases, people with PTSD may struggle with thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
PTSD, like other mental health conditions, can’t be “cured” in the traditional sense of the word. However, treatment can help sufferers learn to manage their condition more effectively. Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication combined with psychotherapy is the most common treatment for PTSD.
Qualifying for Benefits
To qualify for benefits, a veteran must:
- Be diagnosed with PTSD by a qualified healthcare provider
- Submit a statement about the stressor or the traumatic event that occurred during their service
- Submit a medical opinion from a VA psychologist or psychiatrist or a psychologist or psychiatrist under contract with the VA stating that the stressor was sufficient to cause PTSD
Since 2010, veterans have not been required to provide proof that the event that caused their PTSD occurred. The stressor only needs to be consistent with the circumstances of their service with no strong evidence that the incident did not occur.
Ratings for PTSD
Ratings for disability benefits are given from 0% to 100% in 10% increments based on the severity of a veteran's condition. Higher ratings lead to higher cash compensation, and the average PTSD rating is 70%.
In cases of severe PTSD, veterans may be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits. This program allows veterans with disabilities that prevent them from working to receive compensation at the same rate as a totally disabled veteran, even though they do not meet the schedular criteria for a 100% rating.
Secondary Service-Connected Conditions
Veterans with service-connected PTSD can seek additional compensation for any disability that is caused by their PTSD. Common secondary service-connected conditions that can increase your disability rating include:
- Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Sleep apnea
- Substance abuse
In some cases, PTSD is the secondary service-connected condition because it was caused by another disabling injury. For example, veterans who suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during their service may develop PTSD as the result of this injury.
Receiving an Aggravated Service Connection for PTSD
PTSD can be caused by any traumatic event, so the condition isn’t exclusive to military veterans. Natural disasters and car accidents are two examples of non-combat events that can lead to PTSD. Veterans who had PTSD before their military service can’t receive a direct service connection but may be able to obtain an aggravated service connection if they can provide sufficient evidence to establish that their military service made their PTSD more difficult to manage.
Are You A Veteran Who Needs Legal Help To Obtain The Disability Benefits You Deserve?
If you are a veteran and you need help receiving the benefits you deserve you should speak with an experienced veterans disability benefits lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.