PTSD in the Veterans of the Vietnam War

PTSD in the Veterans of the Vietnam War

Vietnam War Veterans experienced many stressful, intense situations and events. Because of their military service and experiences, many Vietnam War vets returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

Thousands of Veterans still experience the long-term side effects and consequences of this psychological condition. Read on for more information about the prevalence of PTSD in Vietnam War Veterans and related disability benefits.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a psychological condition characterized by lasting and/or chronic negative mental and emotional experiences caused by one or more “stressors.”

A traumatic event normally triggers PTSD. For example, a Vietnam War Veteran may have witnessed one of their fellow servicemembers die in combat, or they may have experienced a serious injury themselves. 

PTSD changes the brain and can lead to serious symptoms, such as:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Flashbacks to the stressor or trigger event in question
  • Alterations in mood or cognition
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty socializing
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Danger to oneself and others
  • Alterations in reactivity and arousal (sometimes called hyperarousal)
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Always feeling on alert
  • And more

PTSD can be difficult to discuss, especially for members of the Vietnam generation, which can impede the process of diagnosing. However, it’s important to get a PTSD diagnosis quickly so you can receive adequate medical attention and obtain disability benefits to which you may be entitled.

PTSD in Vietnam War Veterans

In the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, PTSD was not widely recognized as a psychological condition. Most Vietnam War Veterans could not get the emotional and psychological support they needed to recover.

Starting in 1983, Congress ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the prevalence of PTSD and related psychological problems among Vietnam-era Veterans. The study concluded in December 2013 and found that, while most Vietnam-era Veterans were mentally and psychologically healthy, many still suffered from PTSD symptoms decades later.

The study showed that Vietnam War Veterans were severely adversely affected by PTSD and similar psychological conditions.

Unique Factors Affecting Vietnam War Veterans

There has been a lot of speculation as to why Vietnam-era Veterans seemed to have a higher prevalence of PTSD than other military Veterans, including Veterans and other conflicts. Over the years, studies and psychiatrist opinions have coalesced to offer a few explanations:

  • Many Vietnam War Veterans did not have enough decompression time between stressors. That is, they didn’t get a chance between one psychologically stressing event and another to rest or recuperate
  • Many Vietnam War Veterans were also acutely aware that there was not much public support for their actions compared to previous conflicts. This could have caused severe psychological turmoil, especially when they returned home and were not supported by the public
  • Tours in Vietnam were often individual or solitary. Individuals could be sent simultaneously into war zones without the same unit cohesion experienced in previous conflicts
  • The VA did not recognize PTSD as a diagnosable disorder at the end of the Vietnam War, so many Veterans did not believe that they had anything wrong with them despite displaying symptoms we would now recognize as caused by PTSD 

These aspects combined may have caused PTSD to develop at a greater rate among Vietnam War Veterans.

Do Vietnam War Veterans Still Experience PTSD?

The VA itself has concluded that Vietnam War Veterans still experience the symptoms of PTSD in staggering amounts. Thousands of Veterans may experience the chronic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and may or may not receive disability benefits for this condition.

If you or a loved one served in Vietnam and developed PTSD at any point afterward because of events you experienced or witnessed during that time, you could be eligible for compensation. The VA may award you with disability benefits if your PTSD has severe symptoms that impact your ability to work, social life, or carry out day-to-day tasks.

Can You Receive Benefits for PTSD From the Vietnam War?

If you served in the Vietnam War and developed PTSD, you should qualify for disability compensation from the VA. This is true regardless of whether you initially applied for compensation years ago or never applied for benefits.

There’s no expiration date for applying for VA disability compensation. You must prove that you served in the Vietnam War and experienced one or more traumatic stressor events. That’s easier said than done, but knowledgeable Veterans law attorneys can help you.

How Can Veterans Law Attorneys Help Gather Evidence?

To establish a claim based on PTSD in the Vietnam War, you must fulfill three key requirements:

  • First, you must have a current PTSD diagnosis. The diagnosis must be up to date and made by a licensed medical care provider, like a psychiatrist you regularly see. Talk to your mental health provider if you believe you are experiencing PTSD symptoms
  • Second, you must show that you experienced an in-service stressor. In other words, you have to provide evidence that a traumatic event occurred during your service, such as combat, witnessing the death of a loved one, being injured, etc. The VA allows different stressor events to qualify for combat or non-combat Veterans
  • Third, you may choose have a nexus letter from a licensed medical care professional. A nexus letter links your current diagnosis and your in-service stressor, effectively proving that your military service is the root cause of your PTSD and related symptoms. While the VA has a duty to provide examinations, it can help to have a private opinion to substantiate your claim

It’s wise to gather as much substantiating evidence as possible before filing your claim. Good evidence includes your service records like combat awards received or unit assignments and buddy statements or lay statements. Lay statements can come from yourself, your friends and family members, or your fellow servicemembers, so long as those statements substantiate or corroborate your claims.

You’ll also need medical documentation from your psychiatrist or other healthcare providers. These can include prescriptions for medication, notes from psychiatry points, and so on. This evidence will help show that you have PTSD caused or aggravated by your time in the military. However, if you can’t provide evidence from your mental health provider or if you do not have one, you can still file your claim. The VA will need to provide an examination to determine your diagnosis. 

What Happens If You Can’t Find the Evidence You Need?

Of course, gathering this evidence can be difficult if you have not yet acquired disability benefits for your PTSD and served in the military decades ago. Records can be lost, you may not remember exactly what occurred, and statements between yourself and fellow service members may not align perfectly.

Veterans law attorneys can help with these challenges in a variety of ways:

  • We can help you gather the appropriate evidence for your disability claim by diving deep into maintained records and contacting your military branch on your behalf. We can help you gather service records if needed
  • We can contact people who write lay statements before they submit their evidence to the VA or you. In this way, you can determine what happened and make sure you and your lay statement writers present a unified, consistent story to the VA
  • We can negotiate on your behalf and help you file your claim without errors like typos. This will both help your claim get processed quickly and minimize the chances that the VA will deny it

If your claim is denied, lawyers like Berry Law can walk you through the appeals process to get your claim approved or your disability rating increased if your symptoms are serious.

Contact Berry Law

PTSD symptoms are very common in Vietnam Veterans. Still, those Veterans can and should take advantage of VA disability benefits to help them pay for medical care and other financial challenges. Even if you’ve never received benefits, you can still reopen the claim for disability compensation with the assistance of Berry Law.

Berry Law’s experienced attorneys are well-equipped and ready to help you file an initial claim, as well as understand the benefits claim process from start to finish. We can also help you appeal a previously denied claim for benefits if you tried to get compensation years before. Contact us today.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | NIMH 

Course of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 40 Years After the Vietnam War: Findings From the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study | Jamanetwork

PTSD and Vietnam Veterans: A Lasting Issue 40 Years Later – Public Health |

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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