Disability Claims Based on PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] is often a cause or contributing factor in disability claims filed by veterans.
A July 2010 VA rule makes it easier to receive those benefits if you have PTSD as a result of events or circumstances in military service.
The new rule allows your own testimony to establish PTSD related to military service when:
- the PTSD is related to your "fear of hostile military or terrorist activity", and
- A VA psychiatrist or psychologist finds that your symptoms are related to PTSD from your military service, and
- The claimed cause of PTSD is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of your military service.
The event or circumstance which created the PTSD can include situations in which you or others (including civilians) were threatened with or suffered serious injury, death, or "a threat to physical integrity." It is not limited to situations caused by a foreign enemy.
To qualify, your military service must be related to whatever event or circumstance created your "intense fear, helplessness or horror" and which you experience again and again.
According to comments on the new rule, PTSD based on military sexual trauma [MST] is not affected by this change.
The new rules apply to any PTSD-related claim that is:
- filed on or after July 13, 2010 or
- filed before July 13, 2010 and still under consideration at some stage of the process by the VA (including appeal or remand from the Veterans Court).
If your PTSD claim was denied in the past and is not currently under review, you can only reapply for benefits under the new rule if you can produce "new and material evidence" of your claim. Passage of the new rule is not "new and material evidence."
If you are ready to apply based on the new rule, you have two choices:
To receive benefits, a VA doctor or VA contract examiner must confirm the PTSD diagnosis during the C & P Exam. You can include a medical opinion from your own doctor, or from a VA social worker or counselor, but their opinions will not be enough to "prove" the PTSD for purposes of VA disability benefits.
In developing your claim, you may want to review the official "diagnostic features" identified with PTSD. Those features are listed in the 4th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-IV]. This standard reference book is used by medical professionals (including VA doctors) in assigning "disability ratings" to PTSD.