New Regulations on PTSD Claims for VA Compensation
Translation of the article to Polish
According to a VA press release dated July 12, 2010 there are new rules for VA compensation claims for PTSD. These new rules became effective on July 13, 2010. The new rules will make the evidentiary requirements to show service connection for PTSD for veterans who have had difficulty finding evidence to support their claimed stressor easier. Under the old rules, if the veteran was not a “combat veteran” then the veteran’s claimed stressor had to be supported by other evidence. In other words the VA had to corroborate the claimed stressor with other evidence. This meant veterans had to acquire evidence that the veteran actually experienced the event they were claiming as their stressor. This was often extremely difficult and time-consuming for the veteran and the VA. In some cases, it became practically impossible to corroborate a stressor due to missing documents, poor military record-keeping, difficulty with veterans suffering from PTSD being able to recall specific dates and areas where the incident occurred, and many other difficulties associated with producing this kind of evidence.
Under the new rules, this process is made easier because it eliminates this requirement when the claimed stressor is related to “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.” If the stressor is related to fear of hostile military terrorist activity and is consistent with the places, types and circumstances of their service and a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the claimed stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD than the veteran is to be found service-connected for PTSD under the new rules. This means that a veteran’s testimony of his or her in-service stressor is adequate for service connection for PTSD if: (1) the Veteran is diagnosed with PTSD; (2) a VA psychiatrist or psychologist, or a psychiatrist or psychologist with whom VA has contracted confirms that the claimed stressor is adequate to support a PTSD diagnosis; (3) the Veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor; and (4) the claimed stressor is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the Veteran’s service and the record provides no clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. These new rules, apply to all veterans regardless of when they served.
It is clear from the language of the new rules that a veteran does not have to have been involved in combat or been a POW for the new regulations to apply. The new rules state that the stressor must be related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and that the stressor must be consistent with the places types and circumstances of the veteran service. In other words, if the veteran can simply show they were in a war zone and they described an event and their job in the military was consistent with an event such as was described then this would be enough. No longer would the veteran have to give the exact date and place and people that were there. And the VA would no longer have to go out and try and find the documents that this event occurred. Now the VA may have all the information they need to make a determination from a review of the veteran’s personnel records, treatment records or DD 214. The one disappointing part of the law is that it appears that only a VA psychiatrist or psychologist or VA contracted psychiatrist or psychologist can confirm that the claimed stressor is adequate to support a PTSD diagnosis and that the veteran symptoms are related to the claimed stressor. So veterans who are being treated by private psychiatrist for PTSD may still be denied, even under the new rules, if the VA psychiatrist does not come to the same diagnosis. This is particularly troublesome since psychiatric disorders are not only difficult to classify but frequently different diagnosis have overlapping symptoms.
To me it seems a little odd that if you have three non-VA doctors that all state a veteran is suffering from PTSD that one VA doctor who may feel a veteran does not have all the elements of PTSD would still prevent the veteran from being granted service connection under these rules. That being said the new rule, although not perfect, is clearly a step in the right direction and will help thousands of veterans both now and in the future get the VA compensation they deserve for PTSD. It should be interesting to see how the VA is able to handle not only all of the current PTSD claims using the new rules but also how they will deal with the flood of new and previously denied PTSD claims that I am sure will be pouring in to the VA regional offices across the country. For more information on VA Disability and Compensation feel free to visit my website.
Karl Kazmierczak, Esq.