Understanding PTSD in Young Veterans

Understanding PTSD in Young Veterans

Many of our nation’s Veterans returning from combat zones experienced traumatic events while serving in combat zones. They may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It is often difficult for a young Veteran who remains physically fit to admit they have a problem; psychological issues may be even tougher to confront. Because of this,those closest to the Veteran are often those to recognize the difficulties their Veteran may be experiencing while transitioning back to civilian life.

According to U.S. Veterans Magazine, the unique challenges of separating from military service and returning to civilian life include:

  • Reconnecting with family and re-establishing a role in the family
  • Entering the civilian workforce for the first time
  • Adjusting to life with its vast array of choices.

The challenges of returning are aggravated by mental health issues and/or undiagnosed PTSD the Veteran may be experiencing.

An analysis of previous research by PLOS One, a scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science, found that Veterans are at greater risk for PTSD after returning home from service, due to a multitude of post-deployment factors.

Young Military Veterans and PTSD Symptoms

JAMA Psychiatry published a case study on a young Veteran referred by his VA primary care provider to an outpatient mental health clinic due to concerns about PTSD and depression. The Veteran had served in the military for four years, including a six-month tour in Iraq as an assault vehicle operator.

He participated in frequent foot patrols and reported several traumatic experiences he encountered, including:

  • Enemy engagement involving weapons/munitions
  • Multiple ambushes
  • An IED explosion that injured several fellow soldiers

The young Veteran denied having psychiatric issues before military service but reported that since returning home, he had disturbing thoughts about the combat experiences every day.

Issues he reported included:

  • Highly distressing thoughts
  • Frequent violent nightmares
  • Feelings of numbness and withdrawal from others
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Always feeling “on guard”
  • Having an exaggerated startle reflex
  • Angry outbursts
  • Intense guilt 
  • Feelings of hopelessness

He said certain routine activities, such as walking down a street, triggered intense memories of Iraq and induced panic-like symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and shakiness.

The Mayo Clinic groups PTSD symptoms as:

  • Intrusive memories
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood
  • Changes in physical and emotional reactions

Common Treatments and Healing from PTSD

After understanding what a young Veteran with PTSD may be experiencing, the next step is to get the Veteran the help they need.

The Veterans Administration’s National Center for PTSD says trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most highly recommended PTSD treatment. The treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event or its meaning.

The trauma-focused psychotherapies with the strongest evidence are:

  • Prolonged Exposure (PE): Teaching the Veteran how to gain control by facing their feelings. It involves talking about the trauma and doing things the Veteran avoided since the trauma.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): Teaching the patient to reframe negative thoughts about the trauma. It involves talking with a counselor about negative thoughts and completing short writing assignments.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Helping the Veteran process and make sense of their trauma. It involves calling the trauma to mind while paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound.

In conjunction with trauma-focused therapies, medications are often prescribed. The most commonly used medications are antidepressants — SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). Medications such as these can help regulate emotions and alleviate symptoms.

The National Center for PTSD recommends four SSRIs and SNRIs for treating PTSD:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Other medications can also be used with PTSD–these are the most commonly associated. Counseling may include trauma-focused, individual, and family therapies. This is so that the Veteran and his/her loved ones can work through it together. 

Those suffering from PTSD should see a mental health provider with experience treating PTSD.

VA Disability Benefits for Veterans with PTSD

Veterans with PTSD due to or aggravated by their service may receive VA disability benefits.

You may qualify if you have evidence of any of the following:

  • an PTSD diagnosis (in service or otherwise)
  • evidence of personal/sexual assault
  • combat or former prisoner of war (FPOW) service
  • fear, or
  • a stressful event unrelated to hostile military or terrorist activity.

In many cases, you must provide corroborating evidence to prove the service connection to a traumatic event.

Some examples are

  1. military occupation evidence
  2. hazard pay records
  3. service treatment records (STRs)
  4. military performance reports
  5. personal statements
  6. “buddy” statements
  7. medical evidence – either service treatment records or other medical records
  8. verification that the Veteran received Combat/Imminent Danger/Hostile Fire Pay

What Is the VA Rating for PTSD?

The VA rates PTSD at only zero percent, 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent, and 100 percent. Here’s what those ratings mean in terms of symptoms and severity:

Zero Percent Rating

A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication.

10 Percent Rating

Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or symptoms controlled by continuous medication.

30 Percent Rating

Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms Symptoms can include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, panic attacks (weekly or less), sleep impairment, suspiciousness. 

50 Percent Rating

Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity. Symptoms can include those within the 30 percent rating as well as but are not limited to flattened affect, difficulty understanding complex commands, impairment of memory, disturbances of motivation and mood, and difficulty in maintaining work and/or social relationships. 

**Federal law requires the VA to assign a 50 percent rating if the condition developed during service and causes a Veteran to be released from active service.

70 Percent Rating

Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood. Symptoms can include those within the 30 and 50  percent ratings as well as, but not limited to: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); neglect of personal hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships.

100 Percent Rating

Total occupational and social impairment. Symptoms can include those within the 30, 50, and percent ratings as well as, but not limited to: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name.

Contact an Experienced PTSD Lawyer for Help Today

Veterans denied claims or whose disability rating is inadequate need to consult a Veterans disability lawyer experienced with PTSD claims.

The VA Practice attorneys ]at Berry Law pursue all levels of Veterans’ disability claims,at every VA Regional Office in the United States. Two generations of military Veterans at the Berry Law have helped thousands of disabled Veterans obtain the full benefits earned through their service to our country. Our attorneys have litigated claims that have resulted in case law and changes to VA regulations.

Contact the Veterans law attorneys at Berry Law today online at (888) 682-0751. We know the way forward.

John S. Berry, , Attorney for Veterans Disability
John S. Berry, , PTSD Lawyer
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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