Three steps to presenting a strong VA PTSD claim
Part one of two articles.
PTSD claims can complicate the already confusing and murky claims process. There are three requirements that make up a claim for PTSD: (1) a current diagnosis; (2) an in-service stressor; and (3) a link between the current diagnosis and stressor.
Step one is to have a current diagnosis: The first step to receiving VA benefits for PTSD requires the veteran to have a current diagnosis. A psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed social worker or other mental health care practitioner must diagnosis the veteran with PTSD in order to show that the veteran is currently suffering from PTSD. Additionally, the diagnosis must conform to specific criteria and it is important the diagnosing doctor provide a report that fully describes why he feels the veteran has PTSD and how the veteranís symptoms meet the specific criteria. All of this medical evidence must show that it is ďas likely as notĒ that the veteran currently has disabling PTSD.
Step two is to provide an in-service stressor: One of the challenges with a PTSD claim is getting service connection. PTSD is not presumed to be related to service, so a veteran will need to have more than just a current diagnosis. The veteran must show that the stressful event that caused PTSD occurred during service. This does not mean that the veteran must have engaged in combat. Any traumatic event that satisfies the diagnostic criteria can be a sufficient stressor. However, there are different rules for combat vs. non-combat events. If a veteran can show that they were in combat, then a statement from the veteran may be all that is needed to prove an in-service stressor. Records that may help prove combat experience include:
Certain medals and awards received
Unit records showing date and location of unit assignments
On the other hand, if the veteran did not engage in combat, they must provide more evidence than their statement alone.
More information will be presented next week. See your local County Veterans Service Officer if you have questions or would like to submit a claim for PTSD.