Veterans Affairs personnel recently informed members of a Congressional subcommittee that disability payments to veterans has reached an alarming number.
At least one out of every five veterans who are federal disability recipients are suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). In 2008, disability cases that were linked causally to PTSD numbered 345,000. During the time since then, PTSD disability cases have almost tripled, to a record 940,000.
PTSD may develop in certain individuals who have experienced a traumatic event and then continue to experience problems as a result of that experience long after the event has ended. The stigma that was initially attached to PTSD sufferers has decreased over the years as more information about the cause and effect of exposure to dangerous traumatic events has become better understood and studied by medical professionals and mental health counselors. Since the knowledge about PTSD diagnoses and treatment has increased , many older veterans have come forward to be evaluated for PTSD issues from military service decades ago.
Currently, 22% of disability payments made to veterans are for those suffering from service-related PTSD. This number could climb, as the Veterans’ affairs subcommittee on disability assistance is concerned that the current evaluation system may actually prevent thousands of otherwise eligible veterans from receiving disability payments. The committee is considering how PTSD claims are being handled to determine if veterans with PTSD are receiving the help they need.
One issue is that veterans may not be given the appropriate disability rating during the initial evaluation. If the veteran does not receive the appropriate rating it can take years to go through the appeal process, if the veteran is even willing to pursue the matter. The Veterans Administration has developed numerous training courses to educate evaluators and medical personnel to recognize symptoms of PTSD in order to properly evaluate veterans and provide them with appropriate assistance, but it is anticipated that changes in the current review system may still be necessary.
Members of the subcommittee are concerned that the current evaluation method that involves the use of a checklist may not properly lead evaluators to ascertain the true severity of damage sustained by the veterans suffering from PTSD. This may keep veterans who should be granted disability from receiving benefits to which they are entitled. Once a veteran is turned down for service-related disability, the appeals process can be extremely frustrating as well as discouraging.
The American Legion’s division on rehabilitation works with veterans who have been rejected for their PTSD disability claims, but acknowledges that appeals can take years to reach a conclusion. The American Legion has specially trained personnel who can assist veterans with pursuing disability benefits and can provide valuable information regarding other benefits and assistance that may be available to them and their families.
Depending upon the subcommittee’s ultimate findings and recommendations, veterans suffering from PTSD may soon obtain better evaluations of their medical condition, making it easier to obtain the appropriate disability benefits.