Veterans Disability Benefits for Service-Related PTSD
Post traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, was long ignored and then misunderstood by the medical community, the general population and the military.
PTSD is a recognized medical condition with psychological, emotional and physical symptoms. It is also recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a qualifying impairment for veterans’ disability benefits. Unfortunately, many veterans coping with PTSD still run into roadblocks in obtaining the benefits and treatment they need.
What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is generally classified as a psychiatric disorder. It occurs after a person has experienced a shocking or life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, violent personal attacks (such as rape) or a serious accident. Most people recover from the traumatic experience with time. However, some people continue to suffer from stress from the event, and the stress increases over time. The person may suffer from flashbacks or find themselves “reliving” the event. The person may suffer from nightmares or insomnia, or feel detached or estranged from family and friends. These symptoms can be severe enough, and last long enough, to significantly impair the person’s daily life.
Some people experience symptoms of post traumatic stress immediately or soon after the event. Other veterans do not show symptoms until months or even years later, when they are separated, discharged or retired from military duty. Those who do experience symptoms while on active duty may not seek help because they worry a diagnosis will prematurely end their military career.
PTSD is not a new medical problem. Historical records suggest that the condition has existed for centuries. In the United States, medical discussions of the conditions first became prevalent after the Civil War. Although World War II and the Holocaust brought it into focus for scientific research, it wasn’t until after the Vietnam War that PTSD began to receive the attention it had so long deserved.
PTSD develops in military veterans all over the world. For instance, Australian veterans share similar symptoms with American veterans. It is not simply a cultural problem; it is a biological phenomenon suffered by people of all backgrounds. And it’s not unique to military veterans. It is believed up to eight percent of the American civilian population suffers from PTSD. This percentage increases dramatically in military veterans based upon their exposure to traumatic events.
How Does PTSD Develop?
Almost everyone exposed to a traumatic event suffers from some of the symptoms of PTSD in the days and weeks following the event. This is normal. It is a mechanism by which the body and mind adjust to the trauma and process the memory of it. However, when the body cannot adjust to the experience and allow it to resolve within the person’s memory, this mechanism can develop into PTSD. Medical research shows approximately 8 percent of men and approximately 20 percent of women develop PTSD. Of these, approximately three out of 10 people will develop a lifelong chronic problem with PTSD.
How Do You Test For PTSD?
The process of testing for PTSD, also called “assessing,” is normally a multi-phased approach. Structured interviews by medically and psychologically trained professionals are combined with questionnaires to form a blended psychological assessment. The process is set up to reduce the risk of a patient either exaggerating or denying his or her symptoms. It is a highly specialized field of diagnostic skill.
How Common Is PTSD?
At any one time, almost four percent of the American population is suffering from PTSD. This is a small percentage of the total population, and an even smaller percentage of those people who have suffered a traumatic experience. Approximately 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women have experienced at least one traumatic event in their life. However, to those who suffer from it, it can be as serious of a disease as anything they may ever experience.
Approximately three out of 10 combat veterans — veterans who have served in a war zone in any capacity — experience PTSD. Another two to three veterans will suffer from partial PTSD sometime throughout their life. For instance, more than half of the returning Vietnamese war veterans experienced “clinically serious stress reaction symptoms.” Returning Gulf War veterans are suffering from PTSD at an estimated ratio of one in 10. However, this is an initial estimate that may increase as veterans age.
Who Develops PTSD?
There is no specific answer – there are only statistical ranges. PTSD may strike anyone. It is unique to the traumatic event that triggers the PTSD, the person who suffers the event and the social and cultural situation involved in both the event and the aftermath of said event.
PTSD is not caused by a moral failing or weakness. It is a very real medical condition.
Consequences of PTSD
PTSD is more than a mental condition. It affects the biological makeup of the body. It is most often seen in changes in the biological processes of a person’s memory, as well as his or her fear response. This is also seen in a heightened sensitivity of the startle reflex, as well as an increase in sleep abnormalities. Neurobiological changes occur in hormones.
PTSD is associated with other problems ranging from alcohol abuse to drug addiction to major depression to social conduct issues. These can affect the sufferers’ ability to appropriately engage in social or family relationships and render them unable to find and hold stable employment. These symptoms could also cause problems that result in involvement with the criminal justice system.
PTSD commonly causes headaches, gastrointestinal complaints, immune system problems, dizziness, chest pain and discomfort throughout the body. Unfortunately, these physical symptoms are often treated without a PTSD diagnosis.
The treatment with the best proven results is actually made up of two components. The first is a form or fashion of therapy, ranging from one-on-one counseling to group discussions. The therapy may include cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. The second is prescribed medications. The principal drugs prescribed for the condition are SSRI [selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors] such as Prozac and Zoloft.
To its credit, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, once a barrier to finding help for PTSD sufferers, is a major proponent of ongoing scientific and medical research. It operates the National Center for PTSD, which coordinates the exchange and flow of information related to PTSD, as well as promotes the need for ongoing research. The National Center for PTSD website (http://www.ncptsd.va.gov) is an excellent resource.
Veterans Serving Veterans
The Berry Law Firm has handled PTSD from combat injuries such as explosions, gunshot wounds, or other wartime events. We have also represented veterans in non-combat PTSD claims arising from peacetime events such as an assault, a vehicle accident or training accident. Some studies report that female veterans have a higher incidence of PTSD, including physical or sexual assault at the hands of fellow soldiers, sailors or airmen.
We work with veterans and doctors to verify a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and to understand all the ways that it hampers daily living. Post-traumatic stress does not have to be completely incapacitating to qualify for VA compensation. It is rated on a scale of 10 percent to 100 percent disability, and compensated accordingly. Veterans who are unable to hold down a job because of the combined effects of PTSD may qualify for total disability (TDIU) benefits.
Several of our lawyers and staff have served in the military. Founding attorney John Stevens Berry Sr. and his son John S. Berry Jr. are combat veterans who understand the tensions and trauma of war and the ever-present dangers of deployment and military service.
The VA claims attorneys of the Berry Law Firm have extensive experience with PTSD claims. We have helped veterans nationwide appeal denied VA claims or appeal low disability ratings after assessment for PTSD. To speak with a member of our team, call (888) 883-2483 or contact us online.