Change would streamline PTSD claims for vets

By Karen Jowers – Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Sep 6, 2009 8:16:30 EDT

The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving closer to simplifying the process for many veterans to link post-traumatic stress disorder to their military service, whether in a war zone or not, which opens the door for disability benefits.   Under a proposed change published in the Aug. 24 Federal Register, VA would eliminate a requirement that in order to be approved for disability benefits for PTSD, veterans must provide evidence to prove they witnessed or experienced a traumatic event linked to their military service, to include eyewitness corroboration and other documentation.  Under the new policy, VA would accept a veteran’s own testimony. “This will allow us to pay benefits much faster,” said Brad Flohr, VA’s assistant director for policy for compensation and pensions.   Certain veterans, including prisoners of war and those who engaged in combat, already are exempt from the documentation requirement. In a change that took effect earlier this year, those diagnosed with PTSD while still on active duty also do not have to provide this documentation to qualify for VA benefits.  The proposed change is aimed in large part at the many troops in the current wars whose jobs do not involve combat with the enemy but nonetheless may experience traumatic events that lead to PTSD, such as combat support personnel and health care providers.   Some studies estimate that as many as 20 percent of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD or symptoms of the disorder.   But the new policy would not apply only to those who served in combat zones. It refers to traumatic events “consistent with the places, types and circumstances of the veteran’s service.”


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