Our military veterans are in crisis. Suicide rates continue to rise, with veterans protesting lack of appropriate treatment by ending their lives on the VA’s premises. Recent research, however, has revealed that many veterans actually have visible brain changes associated with traumatic brain injury, along with higher rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This research could help support those veterans seeking disability benefits related to their trauma, a claim that is often passed over within the current disability compensation structure.
Seeking Disability For PTSD
On the surface, the VA’s guidelines for PTSD coverage are straightforward. To receive disability benefits, veterans must have experienced the triggering event during their service, must not function as well afterward, and have an official PTSD diagnosis. These criteria can qualify veterans for healthcare, compensation, and specific medical treatment for their trauma, but veterans are denied benefits more often than you might think.
One common reason that veterans are denied coverage is that they were given a less than honorable discharge – often due to a brain injury or their service-related trauma. They may have lashed out at other service members or been self-medicating with illegal substances. Veterans may apply to have their discharge status upgraded, but depending on the branch of the military, these applications often fail.
Appealing Your Claim
If your PTSD-related disability claim is denied, you do have options, and the VA is actually in the process of redesigning the appeals process. However, even with the improved appeals process, it can still help to work with an experienced veterans law attorney. Many of these attorneys are veterans themselves, but most importantly they have a deep knowledge of disability law and benefits as provided by the VA. Not only can such attorneys help disabled veterans appeal a decision, but they can also advocate for more comprehensive care and personalized treatment than is the default for the VA.
Challenging VA Limits
Even when veterans with PTSD successfully claim disability benefits, the care they receive may not correspond with the current best practices. For example, while there’s a popular understanding that having a dog can improve mood and health, the VA refuses to pay for them. And this denial continues after initial research by Purdue University demonstrated a clear decrease in PTSD symptoms for those working with service dogs compared to veterans waitlisted for an assistance animal. This research offered much greater insight into the benefits of animal-based therapies than an initial VA pilot program, and is supported by substantial anecdotal evidence, as well as studies of those with non-combat related PTSD. An experienced lawyer may be able to challenge such a denial based on such research and an appropriate referral from a doctor.
At present, the VA only provides counseling for veterans with PTSD, and while this is an appropriate type of treatment, it isn’t the only option. With mental health issues being such a pressing problem for the military today, and new treatments emerging all the time, the VA must take steps to provide traumatized veterans with comprehensive and cutting-edge care. Failure to do so is tantamount to putting our service members back in harm’s way, and the VA can’t afford to leave more veterans vulnerable to the invisible wounds of war.