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Friday, September 07, 2007

New Report: VA Needs to Change 'One-Size-Fits-All' Approach to Evaluate, Rate PTSD

From Military.com:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recorded an almost 80 percent jump in claims between 1999 and 2004. These trends have sparked questions about when and how PTSD can happen as well as whether VAs current tools and methods for assessing veterans for PTSD disability and determining the level of compensation they merit are reliable and up to date.

To ensure that all veterans receive consistent and appropriate assessments of the severity of their PTSD-related disability, the VA needs to develop new evaluation methods and rating criteria specific to PTSD to replace the overly general, "one-size-fits-all" standards it currently uses, says a new report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. ...

By federal statute, veterans with service-connected disabilities are eligible for payments intended to compensate for their loss of potential earning power. Severity ratings and payment amounts for PTSD and other mental conditions depend on how greatly a veteran's ability to work is impaired, with a maximum monthly tax-free benefit of $2,471 for a veteran without a spouse, children, or dependent parent.

While beneficiaries with mental disorders may be able to hold full-time jobs even as their symptoms negatively affect other aspects of their lives, current rating criteria only award maximum compensation to those who do not work. This is a marked disparity with veterans who have physical impairments. They may still receive maximum disability benefits even as they engage in full-time employment thanks to assistive technologies and services.

Indeed, in May, the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission issued a draft study on the discrepancy in disability benefit awards between physical and mental injuries showing a greatly lower compensation rate for the latter. Also in May, the IOM issued another report (based on a study commissioned by the Veterans Administration) calling for a comprehensive revision to the government's PTSD-compensation system.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

In the interest of education, article quoted from extensively.

Continuing:

The report urges the VA to base compensation decisions on how greatly PTSD affects all aspects of a veteran's daily life, not just his or her ability to be gainfully employed. The current emphasis on occupational impairment penalizes veterans who can and do work despite their symptoms, and does not acknowledge other potential negative outcomes of service-connected ailments, the committee said.

The committee also found abundant evidence that PTSD can develop at any time after exposure to trauma. Some cases that are labeled "late onset" may instead be flare-ups of low-level symptoms or may be longstanding conditions that have gone undiagnosed for years. Aging, loss of mental acuity, the death of friends or spouses, and other factors can trigger or exacerbate symptoms as well, which may explain in part the increase in claims from older veterans.

In related news, here's a short report [watch video] by American Forces Network on military "officials [who] are taking a new look at PTSD, as evidence shows that not all service members recover quickly from combat stress. TSgt Deb Decker reports that Soldiers at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan are preparing for new mandatory Army-wide training on PTSD."


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