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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Military PTSD Diagnosis Now Proof Enough for VA -- For Some

Kelly Kennedy, Air Force Times:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has scrapped a policy requiring combat veterans to verify in writing that they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before they can file a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder — but only if the military has already diagnosed them with PTSD.

“This change provides a fairer process for veterans with service-connected PTSD,” Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said in a written statement. “[It] leaves claim adjudicators more time to devote to reducing the staggering backlog of veterans’ claims.”

In the past, a veteran has needed written verification — a statement from a commander or doctor, or testimony from co-workers — that he or she was involved in a traumatic situation to receive disability compensation from VA if they had not already been diagnosed by the military during a disability retirement process. But PTSD is the only condition that a veteran must “reprove” to receive disability benefits from VA.

“They don’t have to reprove their diabetes,” said Mary Ellen McCarthy, special projects counsel for the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “They don’t have to reprove a leg injury. I have never seen any other condition diagnosed in service [for which] people had to reprove their injury.


In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

Continuing:

The VA regulation was written at a time when the military was not diagnosing PTSD among troops, McCarthy said.

She travels to VA regional offices to check the progress of veterans going through the disability claims system. Even though many of the former troops had already proven they had witnessed a traumatic event in writing as they went through the military disability retirement system, often that paperwork had been lost by the time they reached VA, McCarthy said.

“It could take months to get that paperwork,” she said.

That slows up the paperwork process. And the veteran has to go through the stressful process of reproving that they lived through a roadside bomb explosion or that they witnessed a friend’s death or that they killed an insurgent.

“Revisiting those stressors in a non-therapeutic environment can make the diagnosis worse,” McCarthy said. Akaka said he asked VA Secretary Dr. James Peake if the rule was necessary and requested that it be removed, and Peake agreed.

“I am pleased that the secretary took quick action to reverse this requirement after it was brought to his attention,” Akaka said. Peake has already informed VA regional offices of the decision, Akaka said.

Of course, some clarification of this new rule is needed. Larry Scott (VAWatchdog.org) and Kathie Costos offer a few things worthy of considering, via Wounded Times:

Leave it to Larry Scott of VAWatchdog to get to the bottom of this.

UPDATE: VA'S NEW PTSD POLICY APPLIES ONLY TO THOSE DIAGNOSED WHILE ON ACTIVE DUTY -- VA agrees that veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD while on active duty should be recognized as having PTSD for VA purposes.

Yesterday it was reported that the VA had a new policy regarding proof of trauma in PTSD claims. Unfortunately, a confusing story published by the Military Times Group did not mention that the new policy applies only to those diagnosed with PTSD while on active duty.

We now have a clarification from Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Akaka's press release on the matter.

As posted earlier, it sounded too good to be true. It's a step in the right direction but leaves too many holes to be plugged up. Personality Disorder discharges, all over 20,000 of them, along with the misdiagnosed are left with what under these new rules?

PTSD being diagnosed while active, in other words by the DOD, have not protected any of them so far. Remember the redeployed under medication for PTSD? Where does this leave them? What about the discharged who were diagnosed with PTSD but at such low levels they are receiving zero compensation or ridiculously low compensation?

This will do nothing to reduce the backlog of claims in the VA especially if they were diagnosed after they were discharged. Then we also have to figure in those who have not been diagnosed yet but are trapped in the waiting line. How do they turn around and prove the traumatic event happened? Are they supposed to end up like the Vietnam veterans still trying to find people who will offer support for a claim?

Like I said, it's a step in the right direction but why does it have to be such a tiny baby step?


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