You hear the stories documenting the disproportionate rates of suicide and mental illness among veterans and the challenges many veterans have socially and professionally. Consider this article a resource to help you navigate the PTSD claim process.
Criteria for Service Connection
For PTSD service connection, you must clearly demonstrate and document 1) a clinical diagnosis; 2) a verified, in-service stressor; and 3) there must be a causal relationship between that in-service stressor and the clinical diagnosis.
Simply having symptoms you believe to be PTSD is not enough. You must be clinically diagnosed by a credentialed mental health professional. The mental health professional should provide you with a with a full evaluation written in accordance with DSM-V — the current mental health standard accepted by the VA. (This requirement will make sense to a reputable mental health provider).
Your Verified In-Service Stressor
You must have a verified, in-service stressor. This could include experiences occurring during your military service like:
- combat or combat simulation training
- general fear of hostile military activity for veterans deployed to a combat zone or theater of war
- serious accidents (can include things like jump accidents, serious vehicle accidents, explosions, colliding ships, etc)
- violent assault (can include sexual assault, violent physical assaults, etc)
- natural disasters (earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, clean-up and recover from a disaster, etc)
- loss of significant other (death of close family-member, military buddy, suicides, etc)
- witnessing serious injury, mortally wounded, grotesque scene, etc
The determination is made by a doctor but if any of the above occurred during your military service and you are able to document it, you might consider betting evaluated.
For the claim process, it gets complicated when you do not present your case properly. We are glad to assist. Whether you'll be visiting us at our office in Durham or scheduling to see us in Atlanta, if you want to pursue a service-connection for PTSD, please complete the appropriate PTSD online questionnaire (below).
There are several ways you can document or verify your stressor. They include:
- citing excerpts from you service medical records and 201 file that corroborate your account of events
- search for, find and cite news clippings of published newspaper and magazine articles from reputable publications that corroborate your account of events
- identify someone else who witness the stressor event(s) and confirm that they are willing to write a statement that corroborated your account of events (called a lay statement)
- identify someone who knew you prior to your military service and attest to changes that they witnessed in your condition between the time you entered the military and the time you discharged and confirm that they are willing to write a statement to support your claim (also called a lay statement — this is not as strong as the type of lay statement described in the previous bullet point)
If you were deployed to a theater of war, it should be documented in your service medical records and minute details and confirmation of individual enemy attacks are no longer required since the introduction of the 2010 38 C.F.R. § 3.304 (f)(3).
“If a stressor claimed by a veteran is related to the veteran’s fear of hostile military or terrorist activity and 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 diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder and that the veteran’s symptoms are related to the claimed stressor, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, and provided the claimed stressor is consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the veteran’s service, the veteran’s lay statement alone may establish the occurrence of the claimed in-service stressor.
38 C.F.R. § 3.304 (f)(3);l 75 Fed. Reg. 39,843 (July 13, 2010)”.