USA — Family Matters Blog: VA Eases Rules for Veterans With PTSD

WASHINGTON — I want­ed to share infor­ma­tion about a new reg­u­la­tion by the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs that will ease the claims process and improve access to health care for vet­er­ans with post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der.

I hope our mil­i­tary fam­i­lies help spread the word about this reg­u­la­tion change that can only ben­e­fit our vet­er­ans bear­ing the invis­i­ble wounds of war.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma called the changes a “long-over­due step” in his week­ly address.

“I don’t think our troops on the bat­tle­field should have to take notes to keep for a claims appli­ca­tion,” Oba­ma said. “And I’ve met enough vet­er­ans to know that you don’t have to engage in a fire­fight to endure the trau­ma of war.”

The new rule relax­es the need for evi­dence if a PTSD stres­sor claimed by a vet­er­an is linked to “fear of hos­tile mil­i­tary or ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty and is con­sis­tent with the places, types and cir­cum­stances of the veteran’s ser­vice,” a VA news release said.

Cur­rent­ly, VA deci­sion mak­ers are required to con­firm that a non­com­bat vet­er­an actu­al­ly expe­ri­enced a stres­sor relat­ed to hos­tile mil­i­tary activ­i­ty, the release said.

Under the new rule, VA no longer will require sub­stan­ti­a­tion of a stres­sor tied to fear of hos­tile mil­i­tary or ter­ror­ist activ­i­ty if a VA psy­chi­a­trist or psy­chol­o­gist can con­firm that the expe­ri­ence recalled by a vet­er­an sup­ports a PTSD diag­no­sis and the veteran’s symp­toms are relat­ed to the stres­sor.

Since VA offi­cials won’t have to search through records to ver­i­fy accounts, the new reg­u­la­tion is expect­ed to stream­line an often lengthy and involved prac­tice, enabling the VA to make deci­sions quick­er and reach even more vet­er­ans with PTSD.

More than 400,000 vet­er­ans cur­rent­ly are receiv­ing com­pen­sa­tion ben­e­fits for PTSD, VA offi­cials said. And of the near­ly 400,000 vet­er­ans treat­ed at VA facil­i­ties for PTSD in fis­cal year 2009, near­ly 70,000, or 19 per­cent, were vet­er­ans of oper­a­tions Iraqi Free­dom and Endur­ing Free­dom.

How­ev­er, the new reg­u­la­tion has the poten­tial to ben­e­fit all vet­er­ans regard­less of their peri­od of ser­vice, Michael Wal­coff, VA’s act­ing under­sec­re­tary for ben­e­fits, said dur­ing a July 12 news con­fer­ence.

Dr. Robert A. Pet­zel, VA’s under­sec­re­tary for health, said the reg­u­la­tion will be par­tic­u­lar­ly ben­e­fi­cial for vet­er­ans who have had their mil­i­tary records dam­aged or destroyed, female vet­er­ans whose records don’t spec­i­fy they have com­bat expe­ri­ence, and vet­er­ans who have expe­ri­enced com­bat but have no record of it.

“This is good news for America’s vet­er­ans; in fact, it’s a his­toric day,” Pet­zel said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)