Former servicemembers who have served on active duty in the United States military may suffer from a variety of mental health conditions that have a negative effect on their post-military lives. For example, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can manifest from a variety of mental health stressors on active duty and is a valid reason for a veteran to pursue a claim for disability compensation benefits.
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, an experienced mental health attorney could help you pursue a claim for disability compensation or appeal a denial of your veteran PTSD claim. Veterans’ PTSD claims must follow a specific procedure, and our legal team can help you file a claim, as well as an appeal if necessary, to pursue the benefits you deserve.
Serving on active duty can place great stress on the human body and mind, and continual stress from being on active duty may cause severe mental trauma that can last for months or years after discharge. Understandably, witnessing fellow servicemembers suffer injuries or death may also leave a lasting impression on a veteran’s mental state. Combat service and the stresses that come from using force, or being threatened with violence, is the main stressor for PTSD. Many veterans, both male and female, may have also suffered from military sexual trauma (MST) while on active duty.
PTSD is common after such trauma and can cause a veteran to endure nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, or depression. As a result, you have the right as an honorably discharged servicemember to pursue a veterans’ disability claim based on the lasting symptoms caused by PTSD.
Yes, the VA does consider PTSD as a disability, and a person may be eligible for disability benefits based on their symptoms. Based on recent information from the Annual Benefits Report, over 1.3 million veterans receive compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder. This makes PTSD the third most prevalent service-connected disability.
PTSD typically develops as a result of a traumatic event. Based on the VA’s definition, a traumatic event can be a serious injury, personal trauma, sexual violation, or a threat of injury, assault, or death. Furthermore, for your PTSD to be considered a disability, the following must be true:
As long as you meet these requirements, your PTSD may be considered a disability and you may be eligible for benefits. These benefits can include compensation, health care, and treatment for your condition. An experienced attorney can review your case, help you successfully file a VA PTSD claim or appeal a denial of service connection for PTSD, and secure the benefits you deserve to help manage your service-connected disability.
To successfully pursue a veterans’ disability claim, you must prove that the incident leading to the disability occurred while on active duty and that the subsequent medical condition has resulted in a disability. Proving a claim based on PTSD involves an additional step of proving that a specific stressor caused your PTSD, which can involve suffering a serious personal injury, witnessing another person undergo serious physical injury, enduring a sexual trauma or a sexual violation, or many other unfortunate events. Sometimes, even the threat of personal injury or death may be the PTSD stressor that resulted in your ultimate diagnosis.
Completing VA Form 21-0781 provides information to the VA concerning the specific incident that resulted in your PTSD diagnosis. If you are a veteran suffering from this condition and are disabled as a result, an attorney could help you gather the information needed to prove your claim or file an appeal, including developing further evidence related to your PTSD diagnosis. We also work with medical professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists, if further evaluations or examinations are needed.
To receive compensation for your condition, you must first prove that your PTSD symptoms were caused by a traumatic event that occurred during your military service. In some cases, the connection is obvious. For example, if your symptoms developed due to combat exposure, sexual trauma during your service, or being held as a prisoner of war, PTSD is presumed to be linked to your service. If the connection is not as obvious, you may seek a medical opinion stating that the PTSD is at least as likely as not related to an in-service stressor.
Generally, the VA will require a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam to determine your disability rating and whether your disability is service-connected. The results of this exam will go to the adjudicator, who will apply the rating formula and assign a disability rating for your PTSD symptoms. It is important to be as transparent as possible during this examination, as the information you provide will be used to evaluate the severity of your condition and whether you qualify for benefits.
Once the connection between your disability and your service has been established, you will be assigned a VA rating for PTSD based on 38 CFR § 4.130, Diagnostic Code 9411. The VA rating formula ranges from 0% to 100% and is assigned in increments of 10. VA PTSD ratings can be 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, or 100% depending on the severity of your symptoms. The various PTSD ratings can be characterized as follows:
In some cases, a PTSD diagnosis may qualify a veteran to receive Special Monthly Compensation. Designed to account for additional expenses based on the need for another’s assistance, personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, and the severe nature of a condition, Special Monthly Compensation allows a veteran to collect additional compensation beyond the 100% disability rating. Generally, Special Monthly Compensation is reserved for situations where a veteran is unable to leave their home or requires aid and attendance benefits to function in everyday life.
A veteran with a very severe PTSD diagnosis may qualify for Special Monthly Compensation if they:
If any of these criteria can be proven, it may be possible to secure Special Monthly Compensation for your disability or disabilities. Your attorney can help you file for this additional compensation in your VA PTSD claim.
The VA denies claims for a myriad of reasons. Insufficient evidence, errors during the application process, and uncertainty with regard to the connection between your condition and military service are all common reasons for VA denials. If your claim was denied or if your VA rating for PTSD is lower than expected, there are options for continuing your case. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may:
Ultimately, the right appeal option for you depends on the specific circumstances of your case and the reason why your initial claim was denied. An experienced attorney will review your case and help you understand which approach would be most effective to secure approval for your VA PTSD claim.
Filing a VA PTSD claim requires a great deal of time and effort, and even the strongest cases can be denied for a variety of reasons. While being denied after navigating the long and arduous VA disability claims process can be incredibly frustrating, this is not the end of the road for your claim. At VetLaw, our team of experienced attorneys understands how to successfully appeal an unfair denial and secure the benefits you deserve. To start your free case review, consider contacting us today.