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U.S. Veteran Disability Attorney for PTSD

VA Attorney for Veterans Through the U.S. Suffering PTSD and Other Mental Health Claims

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) involves the development of certain symptoms after exposure to one or more traumatic life-threatening events such as combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. These symptoms include anxiety, depression, nightmares, jumpiness to sounds, trouble getting close to other people, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, and using drugs and alcohol to relax.

There is a high incidence of PTSD among Vietnam Veterans. In many cases, Vietnam was a personal war of survival for each veteran who had served. Most Vietnam Veterans returned home to a hostile reception from the public. Further, it was not uncommon for Vietnam veterans to be in combat one day and home with their families the next day. This lack of decompression time may be a factor in the high incidence of PTSD among Vietnam veterans. Around 30% of Vietnam Veterans have experienced PTSD in their lifetime. Comparatively, PTSD occurs in 11% to 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans and 10% of Gulf War veterans.

Military sexual trauma (MST) is another issue that may lead to PTSD. Members of the military who have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment while serving may struggle with mental health issues. Both women and men can be affected by MST, and it can take place at any time, including during periods of war or peacetime or while a person is receiving training. Statistics for Veterans who receive healthcare services from the VA show that:

  • 23% of women reported sexual assault while serving in the military.
  • 55% of women and 38% of men have experienced sexual harassment while serving in the military.

Even though women are more likely to experience military sexual trauma, there are many more male Veterans than female Veterans, and more than 50% of all Veterans who experience MST are men.

How Do I Get Service-Connected for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

In general, to be service-connected for PTSD, you must have:

  1. A medical diagnosis of PTSD
  2. A link, established by medical evidence, between current symptoms and in-service stressor
  3. Credible supporting evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred

I Don't Have Proof That the In-Service Event Causing My PTSD Occurred. Can I Still Win My Service Connection Claim for PTSD?

Yes. The VA rules allow for situations in which the veteran's lay testimony alone, without credible evidence, can establish the occurrence of the in-service stressor. These situations include:

  1. An in-service diagnosis of PTSD in which the claimed stressor is related to that service.
  2. If a veteran's claimed stressor is related to a fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, such as exposure to improvised explosive devices, small arms fire, or mortar attacks, and a VA psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that the stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD and that the veteran's symptoms are related to the claimed stressor.
  3. The Veteran engaged in combat with the enemy, and the stressor is related to that combat.
  4. Victims of personal assaults and military sexual trauma can use records from police, rape crisis centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals, and physicians; pregnancy and STD tests; and statements from friends and family. Evidence of behavioral changes following the assault will also be considered.

The Vet Law Office is experienced in using these special rules to help prove your VA service-connection claim for PTSD. Contact us today.

How Does the VA Rate PTSD?

Every mental health condition, including PTSD, is evaluated under a single formula based on the degree of impairment caused to the veteran's occupational and social functioning. The formula is detailed below, and it lists the criteria for disability ratings of 100%, 70%, 50%, 30%, 10%, and 0%. It also gives examples of the types of symptoms and levels of social and occupational impairment needed for each rating. In order to receive a certain PTSD rating, you must suffer from symptoms that are listed in the criteria, and you must also suffer from the level of occupational and social impairment listed in the criteria. The VA frequently underrates mental health conditions. Contact The Vet Law Office so we can evaluate your service-connected PTSD or mental health rating to determine if you are eligible for an increase.

The Rating Rating Formula Used by the VA to Evaluate Mental Disorders:

  • 100%: Total social and occupational impairment due to issues such as gross impairment in thought processes or communication; highly inappropriate behavior; persistent hallucinations or delusions; persistent danger of hurting self or others; disorientation regarding time or place; intermittent inability to engage in daily living activities (including maintaining minimal personal hygiene); and memory loss involving a person's own name, their occupation or the names of close relatives.
  • 70%: Social and occupational impairment, with deficiencies in areas such as family relations, work, school, thinking, mood, or judgment, including symptoms such as suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals that interfere with the person's regular activities; speech that is intermittently obscure, irrelevant, or illogical; near-continuous depression or panic that affects the person's ability to function effectively, appropriately, and independently; impairments to impulse control (such as irritability that is unprovoked and results in violent periods); spatial disorientation; neglect of hygiene and personal appearance; spatial disorientation; difficulty adapting to stress (including while at work or in an occupational setting); and inability to establish and maintain positive relationships with others.
  • 50%: Social and occupational impairment that has led to reduced productivity and reliability due to symptoms such as: circumlocutory, stereotyped, or circumstantial speech; a flattened affect; panic attacks that occur more than one time each week; problems with short-term and long-term memory (e.g., only being able to retain highly learned material or forgetting to finish tasks); difficulty understanding complex instructions; impairments to judgment; difficulty with abstract thinking; disturbances affecting mood and motivation; difficulty in establishing and maintaining relationships in both social and work settings.
  • 30%: Social and occupational impairment that occasionally leads to decreases in efficiency while working, as well as intermittent periods in which a person is unable to perform work-related tasks (while still generally being able to function satisfactorily, while addressing self-care, engaging in routine behavior, and holding normal conversations), due to such symptoms as anxiety, depression, panic attacks that occur every week or less often, chronic sleep disorders, suspiciousness, and mild memory loss (including failure to remember recent events, directions, or people's names).
  • 10%: Social and occupational impairment involving mild or transient symptoms that may limit a person's work efficiency and decrease their ability to perform work-related tasks during times when they experience significant stress; or when they have symptoms that may be controlled by the continuous use of medication.
  • 0%: A person has received a formal diagnosis of a mental condition, but symptoms they are experiencing are not considered to be severe enough to interfere with social and occupational functions or do not require them to take medication on a continuous basis.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs when a sudden injury or trauma to the head causes signs such as a loss of consciousness, confusion, or disorientation. TBI is unfortunately considered the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blasts from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are primarily responsible for the increase in TBI among Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veterans. However, TBI is not unique to OIF and OEF veterans, and service connection for TBI may be established for veterans who did not serve in either conflict. For example, a Vietnam veteran who suffered a head injury during a vehicle accident may be entitled to service connection for residuals of TBI.

How Does the VA Evaluate TBI?

In 2008, the VA recognized that the rating criteria used to evaluate TBI was outdated, and it amended the rating criteria to allow for higher ratings. However, these new rating criteria still may not go far enough to accurately reflect TBI's impact on veterans' lives. The Vet Law Office is experienced in helping veterans seeking compensation for residuals of TBI to obtain the evidence needed to increase a rating for TBI.

You may also be entitled to a secondary service connection for disabilities the VA believes to be caused by TBI. These disabilities include Parkinson's disease, seizures, dementia, depression, and hormone deficiencies. However, whether the VA will grant secondary service connection for these diseases depends on whether the veteran's TBI could be characterized as mild, moderate, or severe at the time of the injury or shortly afterward. How long after the TBI the secondary disability arises will also determine if a secondary service connection will be granted. For example, depression that manifests within three years of moderate or severe service-connected TBI, or within 12 months of mild service-connected TBI, entitles the veteran to service connection for depression. Contact us if you need help in determining if you are entitled to service connection for disabilities caused by TBI.

Contact Our United States VA Disability Attorney for PTSD

Edward M. Farmer is a U.S. Army veteran and an attorney. The majority of his career has been dedicated to assisting veterans with legal issues nationwide. Call 1-800-700-4174 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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