Veterans who have engaged in intense and prolonged combat or experienced another exceptionally stressful event are at risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This mental health disorder, also known as shell shock and battle fatigue, has probably been around as long as soldiers have fought battles, but only in recent decades has PTSD been recognized as a serious and debilitating condition.
Every attorney at our firm can help you get the benefits you deserve if service-related PTSD has disrupted your life. We are so confident that we can win your PTSD claim that we don’t get paid unless you get the benefits you deserve.
Anyone who has gone through combat or an event that causes feelings of intense fear or helplessness can develop PTSD. This includes combat veterans and survivors of terrorist attacks, serious accidents, and physical or sexual assault. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain. The symptoms of PTSD usually start soon after the life-threatening event, but they may occur months or years later and continue for years, making it difficult to continue with daily activities.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), signs that a veteran could be suffering from PTSD include:
PTSD is the most prevalent mental health disorder resulting from combat. PTSD claims have increased sharply. From 1999 to 2007, the number of veterans receiving compensation benefits for PTSD went from 120,000 to nearly 300,000, according to the VA.
While the VA pays disability benefits to former servicemembers who have been diagnosed with service-related PTSD, it is unwise to take on the VA bureaucracy by yourself. It can take months or even years before you get the benefits you are entitled to without the help of a knowledgeable attorney who understands the VA claims system.
To be eligible for PTSD-related disability benefits, a veteran must present:
Once a Veteran establishes to the VA’s satisfaction that his or her PTSD is service-connected, the VA will determine their level of impairment. For service-connected PTSD disabilities, the VA bases the amount of benefits on the degree of disability. There is a graduated scale of disability that begins at 0 percent and goes up to 10 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent, and 100 percent. A 0 percent rating means that you have service-connected PTSD, but you are not impaired by it.
In order to decide the disability percentage, the VA uses a diagnostic test called Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF). This rating looks at how well someone functions in carrying out daily living activities, including social interactions. The scale ranges from 0 to 100. A lower GAF score indicates that someone is more impaired.
There are different circumstances that could qualify as a PTSD stressor for the purposes of a VA disability claim. The VA considers a PTSD stressor to be any of the following scenarios that takes place during active duty military service:
These stressors could occur in many different scenarios. While many PTSD claims result from traumatic events that occurred during combat, stressors can occur in non-combat scenarios as well. Accidents that occur during training or while working in a logistical capacity on a military base could also qualify as PTSD stressors for the purposes of a VA disability benefits claim. Benefits could be available for anyone suffering from PTSD as a result of things they experienced or witnessed someone else experience during their time on active duty.
The disability rating a veteran receives for his or her PTSD is based on their level of impairment and will directly impact the amount of benefits he or she will be entitled to recover. While a 0 percent rating will not result in any benefits, other ratings – assigned in 10 percent intervals – will yield some monetary payments each month. The higher the rating, the more benefits a veteran is entitled to recover each month. The maximum amount of benefits varies from year to year and is set by the VA.
There are other factors that could impact the value of a former servicemember’s monthly disability benefits, however. Specifically, the number of dependents a veteran has will impact the amount of compensation he or she will receive for his or her service-connected PTSD. Qualifying dependents could include spouses, children, and parents. The higher the number of dependents there are relying on a veteran, the greater the amount of benefits he or she will receive each month.
It is not uncommon for the VA to assign inadequate or incorrect ratings when it comes to former servicemembers with PTSD. In some cases, the decisions are rushed or made without proper investigation. It is also worth noting that diagnosing PTSD can be far more challenging than physical injuries. Because of the inability to see PTSD with their own eyes, many evaluators refuse to acknowledge the diagnosis.
Many veterans are also unable to properly advocate for themselves when it comes to obtaining a PTSD diagnosis because they lack the medical background needed to evaluate the condition on their own. These challenges can result in the VA failing to adequately rate a former servicemember’s PTSD, misdiagnosing it as another condition entirely, or even refusing to accept that a veteran is dealing with a condition at all.
The good news is that there are options for challenging incorrect rating decisions. There is an appeals process that veterans with PTSD may rely on to challenge decisions made by the VA. An appeal is not only useful when a PTSD claim is denied outright, as former servicemembers could also appeal if they believe they were rated incorrectly or for the wrong condition. An appeal could increase the rating substantially, which would also boost the monthly benefits available to the disabled vet.
If you think you may be eligible for disability benefits on the basis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other service-related disabilities, contact us today for a free consultation. We can offer guidance regarding your PTSD claim, and we do not charge veterans unless we are successful in obtaining disability benefits.