When it comes to service-connected disability compensation for U.S. military Veterans, service-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common conditions – and also one of the most difficult ones to obtain benefits for.
If you are having a hard time obtaining PTSD benefits, the VA benefits lawyers at Berry Law Firm want to help. Veterans’ disability benefits law is the primary focus of our legal practice. Our legal team brings extensive knowledge of PTSD, military service during multiple conflicts, and a strong grasp of how to successfully navigate cases through the often Veteran-unfriendly VA appeals process to our clients.
Call us today or contact us online to set up a free consultation.
Experienced legal counsel is advisable because strict scrutiny on PTSD claims by the Veterans Benefits Administration Veteran often makes it difficult for Veterans to prove they are suffering from a mental disorder.
Many Veterans with PTSD can benefit from a letter of support from their own private medical doctors, often referred to by the VA as an independent medical opinion. A document from a primary care physician or a psychiatrist could indeed prove beneficial for some Veterans, but there can also be cases in which the VA may reject the independent evaluation.
Why Do I Need a Private Medical Opinion as a Disabled Veteran?
You could improve the chances of your disability claim getting approved much earlier in the process by supplying an independent medical opinion. Or, if your case involves an appeal of a VA decision, an independent medical opinion could be necessary to achieve any measure of success.
The ability to get an independent medical opinion for Veterans is not always easy. Private practitioners are much more likely to write such letters than doctors who are actively employed by the VA.
The VA doctors tend to come down on the government’s side, likely casting doubt on a PSTD claim. In that context, Veterans who receive their healthcare exclusively from the VA may have to pay physicians out of pocket to review VA records and conduct an examination before they are willing to author an independent medical opinion.
How Can I Get a Private Medical Opinion Regarding PTSD?
Veterans can see private doctors for care and treatment. If you are regularly seeing a psychiatrist or doctor on your own, you may simply be able to request an independent medical opinion. Otherwise, and if you’re not receiving ongoing treatment from a private doctor, you need to make an appointment with a qualified healthcare professional, particularly a specialist in mental health, to review your file.
To enable a doctor to write an independent medical opinion for the VA, the doctor will generally need the following:
- Your military medical records, including your enlistment examination report
- Medical records from the VA or any other treatment providers
- A copy of your VA claims file
A doctor may request other kinds of records that they believe are relevant to your claim to provide linkage between military service and PTSD.
VA doctors are required to write opinions about medical conditions only after VA administers a compensation and pension exam (C&P exam) when a Veteran applies for disability benefits. The VA may schedule a C&P exam when it needs additional information about a Veteran’s PTSD to make a decision.
An experienced PTSD lawyer can guide you through the disability claim process, including whether you need an independent medical opinion and how to get a second opinion from a credible private doctor.
What Medical Records Are Needed for a Private Medical Option for a PTSD Claim?
When doctors are reviewing your possible PTSD claim, they will be looking for medical records relating to events or incidents that occurred while you were actively engaged in military service. This usually harkens back to intense and prolonged combat, but it also could include sexual or physical assault, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters, among other causes.
Physicians can review records to determine exactly when PTSD began. Also to know when the Veteran began to display symptoms, as well as also drawing conclusions about a possible prognosis.
Medical records from the VA often provide some of the most valuable medical records in these cases. There can also be very important findings in a number of private medical records. A Veteran applying for PTSD benefits should supply their private doctor with as complete a collection of medical records as possible so an independent medical opinion can be based on a full analysis of all available evidence.
Establishing a service connection for PTSD usually requires a Veteran to demonstrate proof of a “stressor” (traumatic event) during service, a PTSD diagnosis, and an opinion from a VA psychologist or psychiatrist that the stressor caused the PTSD.
Common Reasons Why VA Rejects Private Medical Opinions
The VA is not obligated to accept all independent medical opinions. It may even reject the opinions of VA doctors in some cases. Independent medical opinions can be rejected for a variety of reasons, including cases in which doctors based their opinions solely on the testimony of the PTSD claimant.
The VA could also determine that an independent medical opinion was uninformed and based on an incomplete review of a Veteran’s medical history. In other cases, the doctor may have provided insufficient reasons to justify their conclusion that the Veteran suffers from PTSD.
Doctors could also be penalized for using speculative language such as “could be” or “maybe” in their independent medical opinion. The VA could reject an independent medical opinion when a physician fails to address unfavorable evidence.
Another reason for rejecting the findings of an independent medical opinion includes a doctor’s failure to address a significant period of time between a Veteran’s discharge and a PTSD diagnosis. The VA could also reject an independent medical opinion. This is when the agency feels that the doctor is relying on inaccurate facts in the PTSD analysis.
How Berry Law Firm Can Help
Berry Law Firm represents Veterans nationwide. Our firm has been providing legal counsel to fellow Veterans since 1965.
Firm founder John S. Berry Sr. is a Vietnam War Veteran and Bronze Star recipient. John S. Berry Jr. was a company commander in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and a platoon leader in Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia. Eight other attorneys in our firm have served in the U.S. military.
If you are struggling to obtain VA disability benefits for PTSD, you do not have to deal with all the challenges by yourself. Contact Berry Law and let us handle all of the complex legal legwork so you can focus on your health and well-being.
Our firm understands the many complications of PTSD claims. We handle appeals before all VA Regional Offices, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
We will provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you schedule a free case evaluation.