If you have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving in the military, you may be unable to work and might not know where to turn for help. Fortunately, you could be eligible for veteran’s disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
These benefits exist to assist disabled veterans – including those who suffer from PTSD – with the challenges they face.
If you are having problems getting your PTSD disability claim approved or your disability rating is too low, it is important to remember that it is a largely mental disorder, with the more obvious physical symptoms that are commonly associated with other kinds of injuries not always visible. You will want to work with an attorney for help proving the extent your PTSD disability.
Symptoms of PTSD
The nonprofit organization PTSD United, Inc. reported that 70 percent, or approximately 223.4 million people, in the United States have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. Approximately 44.7 million of these people (20 percent) go on to develop PTSD. There are 24.4 million people (8 percent of the population) suffering from PTSD at any given time.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs reported that between 11 to 20 percent of military veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year. With Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 12 percent suffer PTSD each year.
PTSD is not limited to veterans, as anyone can suffer PTSD as the result of many other kinds of accidents. But veterans of the armed forces happen to be the people who most often experience challenges in getting PTSD-related claims approved.
PTSD is frequently the result of traumatic events during combat exposure, but sexual assault, terrorist attacks, and motor vehicle accidents can also cause PTSD.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Flashbacks — People re-experience traumatic events during nightmares or bouts of insomnia.
- Arousal — Some victims may be more irritable or angry because of a feeling of constantly being on edge, often involving difficulty sleeping.
- Avoidance — Victims may try to distance themselves from other people, places, or activities that remind them of traumatic events.
- Depression — Many victims will battle feelings of guilt, helplessness, and confusion about their condition.
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VA Disability Claims Process in South Carolina
A military veteran can obtain disability benefits if they have symptoms related to a traumatic event (known as the “stressor”) or their experience with the stressor is related to PTSD symptoms. To receive disability benefits for PTSD, all the following conditions must be true:
- The stressor happened during the veteran’s service.
- The veteran cannot function as well as they once could because of their symptoms.
- A doctor has diagnosed the veteran with PTSD.
The VA considers an event to be a traumatic event if the veteran suffered a serious injury, personal or sexual trauma, or sexual violation, or they were threatened with injury, sexual assault, or death. VA disability benefits for PTSD can include health care, compensation, and treatment for PTSD.
When a veteran believes they are suffering from service-related PTSD, they can submit an application online at the VA website or complete and mail VA Form 21-526 to their local VA regional office. The VA may order a veteran to undergo a Compensation and Pension Examination at their local VA medical center, where a mental health professional determines whether the veteran’s symptoms qualify them to receive benefits.
The VA then uses the medical professional’s report as well as VA diagnostics codes to determine the severity of a veteran’s PTSD and assign a disability rating. A veteran has the right to submit their own independent medical examination when the VA does not diagnose service-related PTSD or refuses to provide a C&P exam.
A veteran may also ask their doctor to submit a Residual Functional Capacity Form that explains why they should qualify for disability benefits. Other parties with firsthand knowledge of traumatic events and PTSD symptoms could also be asked to provide “buddy statements” or “lay statements.”
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Challenges of PTSD Claims for VA Disability Benefits
One of the most common challenges involved in PTSD claims includes problems establishing connections between PTSD and a veteran’s service. Other issues involve a diagnosis not being current or being unable to identify the required symptoms.
When a veteran submits their disability claim to the VA, they have the right to appeal any disability rating decision made by the regional office. An appeal of a rating decision is a Notice of Disagreement, and the regional office forwards the appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals after issuing a Statement of Case that summarizes the case and the agency’s decision.
The BVA will conduct a fresh review of the facts before issuing its decision. A veteran who disagrees with a BVA decision can then appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Any subsequent appeal goes to United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, with the Supreme Court of the United States being the court of last resort.
What Our South Carolina PTSD Lawyers Can Do to Help
George Sink Sr. founded his law firm because he is a disabled veteran and wants to help other disabled vets. He understands the many struggles veterans face when attempting to recover the benefits they need and deserve.
Our firm can help you seek to increase your disability rating and appeal any denied benefits. We know how to present the strongest possible case for veterans battling PTSD.
Do you need help with a VA disability claim for PTSD? Do not delay in contacting George Sink, P.A. Our firm is based in South Carolina and helps veterans nationwide. You can have our lawyers review your case as soon as you call us or contact us online to receive a free consultation.