Proving a Stressor for PTSD

In order to get service connected for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a veteran needs to show credible evidence of the in-service stressor(s). Evidence from the service department showing that the veteran served in the area in which the stressful event is alleged to have occurred and evidence supporting the description of the event should be considered when deciding the claim.

Service records do not need to corroborate every detail of the stressful event. There must be evidence of the occurrence of a stressful event and evidence indicating or implying the veteran’s exposure to the stressful event. While credible supporting evidence proving a stressor occurred is a requirement for PTSD, there are some exceptions to this requirement.

One exception to the credible supporting evidence requirement is found in 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f). According to 38 C.F.R. §3.304(f), a lay statement from a veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD in service is sufficient evidence to meet the credible supporting evidence requirement if the lay statement is consistent with the circumstances of the veteran’s service and as long as clear and convincing evidence to the contrary is absent.

Another exception to the credible supporting evidence requirement is found in 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f)(2). This regulation indicates if a veteran was engaged in combat during the occurrence of the claimed stressor, veteran’s lay statement alone is sufficient evidence to meet the credible supporting evidence requirement. This can only be rebutted if the claimed stressor is inconsistent with the circumstances of veteran’s service or there is clear and convincing evidence that the stressful event(s) did not occur.

A final exception to the credible supporting evidence requirement is found in 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f)(3). This regulation states the stressor must be related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and a VA psychiatrist or psychologist must confirm the diagnosis of PTSD, confirm the stressor is adequate to support the diagnosis and confirm the symptoms are related to the stressor. This exception does not include sexual assault or hostile military actions of U.S. military personnel against other U.S. military personnel.