The VA now has a form for the “stressor letter” that veterans commonly submit when applying for service connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A veteran may substantiate his or her claim that he/ she was involved in a traumatic event by filing VA Form 21-781. When you fill out this form, you will most likely need to submit a “stressor statement” which is a written account of the stressful events you experienced in the military that caused you to have a disability. Writing a stressor statement can itself be stressful because in many cases, you’re being asked to recall — and record — events that you’d rather forget. This is true not only for veterans who served in combat, but also for veterans who suffered Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
When you are writing your stressor letter, it is essential to include as many details as possible. Your military records will help you pinpoint dates, times, and places. Your service records are only one possible source of information for your stressor statement. If you wrote letters to home, those can also serve as evidence of what took place. Depending on when and where you served, you can also use a trail of emails or even a diary so that you don’t leave anything out.
One thing that you must do is tell the truth. You’re not expected to have a perfect memory. If you can’t recall something, don’t hesitate to say so. But do include as much detail as you can. Are there specific sights and sounds you can’t forget? If so, write about them.
If you don’t remember precisely when something happened, do your best to give the VA an approximate time frame. They’ll need it if it becomes necessary to verify your story by researching military records. You may be able to peg the event to another occurrence in your life. Did it happen on or near a birthday? An anniversary? A holiday? A death? There’s no need to exaggerate or embellish. The facts are powerful enough. Let them speak for themselves.
The VA also has a Form 21-0781A, which is used for physical attacks and sexual assaults. These events do not have to occur on-duty or on a military base. Active duty soldiers who were on leave or pass who were jumped and beaten or raped can be service connected for PTSD, even though the incident had nothing to do with military service. The key to filling out VA Form 21-0781A is providing as much detail as possible. Try to remember the date the event took place. Don’t just give a statement and hope the VA will believe you. Provide as much supporting documentation as possible.
Because the process of submitting a stressor letter may be incredibly emotional and difficult, some veterans believe it is important to have a support system of family, friends, or a therapist to help you process reliving the traumatic events.
It is also necessary to keep in mind throughout this process that once you submit the letter and appropriate forms, you are one step closer to getting the help you need from the VA and moving forward with your life.
Are you receiving the veterans’ disability compensation you are entitled to receive by law? If you need assistance appealing VA Rating Decisions for mental health conditions or physical disabilities that occurred in service, please contact Berry Law.
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