30 August 2009

VA Prepares to Ease Rules for PTSD Claims

Here is a interesting article from Karen Jowers, a staff writer for the Army Times on the VA's move to ease rules for PTSD claims by soldiers. The story is available at this link http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/08/military_PTSDrule_082509w/ or by just reading below.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving closer to simplifying the process for many non-combat veterans filing claims for service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder.
Under a proposed change published in the Aug. 24 Federal Register, VA would eliminate a requirement that a veteran must provide evidence documenting that he witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Certain veterans, including those who engaged in combat with the enemy, and those who were prisoners of war, already are exempt from the documentation requirement.

The proposed change also does not apply exclusively to those who served in combat zones. It refers to traumatic events that are “consistent with the places, types and circumstances of the veteran’s service.”

A psychiatrist or psychologist must confirm that the traumatic event is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD and that the veterans’ symptoms are related to the traumatic event, according to the proposed change.

It is hoped the move also will simplify the process for VA and reduce its benefits claims backlog. VA will accept comments on the proposed change by Oct. 23, but information was not immediately available about how long it would take after that to put the new rules in place.
The change was agreed to more than 17 months ago by then-VA Secretary Dr. James Peake, at the request of Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.

A veteran’s own testimony alone may be enough to establish that the traumatic event happened, without corroborating evidence. According to the Federal Register notice, a veteran’s lay testimony is already sufficient in cases in which PTSD was diagnosed during military service and the traumatic event is related to that service; or in cases in which the veteran engaged in combat with the enemy or was a prisoner of war, and the traumatic event was related to that experience.

But in all other claims for service-connected PTSD under current rules, VA regulations require supporting evidence corroborating the traumatic event. The change eliminating this requirement will especially help people in combat support jobs, such as nurses, doctors and truck drivers, who may suffer from PTSD without necessarily experiencing direct combat, veterans advocates said.

Current rules require veterans to provide written verification, such as a statement from a commander or doctor, or testimony from co-workers, that they were involved in a traumatic situation in order to receive disability compensation for PTSD from VA.

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