Medical Issues 4
RECEIVING DISABILITY FOR PTSD
There' are two basic steps to receive a disability from the Veterans Administration for PTSD. The first step Is filing a claim with the VA for PTSD. The second, and most Important, is submitting a stressor letter. Most combat veterans do not trust the government or the VA. This Is understandable considering the treatment most veterans received during and after the Vietnam War. But the VA has improved In most places, and the benefits are there for the combat veterans. The VA does not go looking for the combat veteran with PTSD. You mush push aside any bad feelings and make the effort to receive the earned benefits.
FILING A CLAIM
As ridiculous at it may seem, all combat veterans must not only prove that they were in combat, they must also prove that they were in the military. This process screens out the phony combat veterans. It is surprising how many combat veterans have surfaced who were on top secret missions, and of course, there Is no record of their even being In the military because their missions were so secret.
You can file a claim on your own, but there are several veterans organizations who will represent you on a disability claim. The best of these is probably the American Veterans (AMVETS), since their primary purpose Is helping the veterans file claims for disability. If you do not have a AMVETS office In your area where you can meet with a service officer, you can call the nearest AMVETS office and tell them you want to file a claim for disability. The AM VETS, will send you a power of attorney. You sign this paper and send It back through the mail. This gives the AMVETS your permission to represent you In your claim. The AMVETS opens your claim and forwards it to the VA regional office in your area. Opening the claim is actually a simple process.
THE STRESSOR LETTER
This is the single most Important factor In obtaining disability for the combat veteran. After your claim has been filed, usually within 30 to 60 days, you will receive a letter from the VA stating that they have received your claim for PTSD. Then you will be asked to submit a stressor letter. This Is a written record of combat experiences which you felt were life threatening or have caused you to display symptoms of PTSD. They will also note that they understand how difficult this can be for some veterans (thinking about war experiences and writing them down). And for many this Is difficult. Some can't write well. Some are to terrified to think in detail about their war experience.
Chances are, the average veteran cannot write a stressor Letter that will pass the Rating Board. Once a stressor letter has been rejected by the rating board, the process to receive disability can be long and discouraging. Many veterans give up and never receive the disability they deserve. The VA will tell you how to write the letter or what detail. to include. If the letter is rejected, many combat veterans will give up before appealing the rating board decision. So. veteran must submit a solid stressor letter to pass the rating board. This I, my area of expertise. I know what to put In the letter and how to present It so that the rating board will grant any where from 10% to 50% disability just from your .stressor letter without rejection and VA appeal hearings. It will be Impossible to receive a 100% rating from a stressor letter, but once the VA agrees you are disabled, you can appeal for a higher percentage.
PTSD IS A RECOGNIZED DISORDER WHICH DOES NOT GO AWAY. THE REACTIONS TO COMBAT STRESS OFTEN BECOMES A PERMANENT PART OR: THE VETERAN'S PERSONALITY.
WHAT COMES NEXT: THE COMP EXAM
At some point after you file for disability, either before or after you have submitted your
stressor letter, you will receive a letter asking you to come to the nearest VA Hospital In your area far a Compensation Examination. This just means that you are going to speak to VA psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will ask you many questions about your background (Including your childhood and current social life) and your war service. The meeting with the doctor will probably last anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. The VA will also reimburse you with a small travel allowance for corning.
You must show up for this camp exam. If for some reason you can't make if, then call the VA and they will schedule you again. Most of all, relax. This psychiatrist Is not your enemy, and it is his or her job to send a report to the VA regional office as to whether you show symptoms of PTSD.. The psychiatrist is Impartial. if you show symptoms of PTSD, it will be reported without any favor toward the VA. So relax and answer questions to the best of your knowledge.
Always stress. the negative side of your life...never the positive. Just like at the close of the stressor letter. You can do this• and still tell the truth just by avoiding the positive. Here are some things not to say at a Camp Exam.
1. My Life Is OK.
It's not or you wouldn't be there.
2. I sometimes hear voices.
Hearing voices can lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and your PTSD claim may be rejected.
3. I am happily married.
It has often bean decided that having PTSD automatically means an unhappy marriage. It can but
4. I love my job. I have been there twenty years.
If you have managed to keep one job, It may be determined that you Interact normally and do not
have PTSD. You can have one job and still be miserable It's a mutter of survival.
5. I have lots of friends.
Never admit you have lots of friends. Chances are you don't anyway. At least, not like the friends
you made In combat situations who you can trust with your life.
6. Don't threaten the doctor.
Some veterans scream, yell, and threaten to kill the doctor In an attempt to show symptoms of
PTSD. 99% of the time this Is an act and won't help your claim.
The main thing Is to stress the negative side of your life, just as In the end of the stressor letter. If you have had a substance abuse problem since before your war service It would be best not to mention It. Stress the fact that you are depressed and have nightmares and feel that the war has altered your life. Just remembers to stress the negative Instead of anything positive In your life
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A STRESSOR LETTER
1. NAME. Rank. Service Number. Days Of Time In War Zone:
Make sure your current correct address and claim number are at the top of your stressor letter, begin by re-stating your name, rank, and service number. Then begin with your war service. Do not mention time spent In the United States. Many veterans ramble on about stateside service, and this has nothing to do with combat stress. If your MOS or specialty was something other than combat related (supply, motor transport, etc.) but you did not serve In your MOS or, specialty mention it here because the VA will turn you down unless you prove you were In combat. If you were In Special Forces or Recon etc., don't go Into any detail about stateside training.
2. Were you wounded:
If you were wounded Include dates if possible, and number of times wounded. This refers only to wounds which were treated by medics, corpsmen. or doctors for which you received a purple heart and are a matter of record If you have malaria or any type malaria fever and were treated for It, mention It also, If you believe It may be In your records.
3. If You Killed The Enemy:
include the times you actually saw the enemy and killed them. Be specific If possible. Don't say something like. (my outfit killed 53 NVA in the fire fight). That's too general. State what you were doing when the enemy was killed and how it affected you. (I kept firing and I could see them falling as they ran toward us).
4. If you saw Americans die:
Most combat vets lost close friends In combat. For some vets remembering names is difficult, but this will definitely help your claim If you can remember the approximate date and names of men In your outfit killed while you were there. If someone killed was your best friend, mention it and how It affected you. The names will be checked by the VA against KIA lists. If friends were wounded bad enough to be shipped home, you may mention this and Include their names If possible. (This Is all verification that you were In combat. Try to use real names Instead of nicknames at all times).
5. If you saw civilian dead:
In villages, in the Jungle, or other places. This was traumatic to many combat troops especially if they had to handle the bodies. Seeing dead children often has long range effects on combat vets, particularly if the children or civilians were killed during fire fights or mistaken for the enemy.
6. If you were on body detail:
Or If you otherwise handled the bodies of dead Americans, either In the field or in the rear where the bodies were stripped for shipment home. This often causes extreme trauma to those who handled the bodies.
7. Times you did not think you would survive:
incidents when you thought you would not be alive the next day help with a PTSD claim. When you had given up hope and thought for sure you would be killed with no chance of survival. (Describe In detail).
8. All Incidents Of combat:
Small arms fire, fire fight., mortar and rocket attacks, booby trap, mines, artillery, etc. Each time you were
In a life threatening situation whether you were able to return fire or not. (Walking through mine fields,walking point. etc.)
9. Names of operations or search and destroy:
Remembering names of specific field operations and sweeps can often be helpful because the military often left much Information out of service records. Some combat troops have very complete service records. Others have had their records lost or destroyed, or information was never entered. Any Information you can remember about field operations is verification of combat role.
10. How your life has changed because of war:
State your problems today because of your war service. Divorce, substance abuse, nightmares, paranoia, trouble holding job. lack of feeling, etc. If you have been in therapy or other treatment, mention this. Stress the negative side of your life. Mention nothing good that has happened to you. Don't say you get along great with people and you are happy most of the time. Stress that life Is a constant struggle due to your combat service. (You used to love fireworks but now when you hear them you hit the ground. You used to love to go to sporting events but now you Can't cope with being in crowds, etc.).
NOTE: Those ten points will help you write a stressor letter which will have a good chance of passing the VA rating board. When writing about combat, write how It affected you personally. Don't write, stuff like ..(We sat around and ate dinner and then the sergeant told us a story about his wife and then Joe tried to steal my bean and wieners). Too many Vets go Into detail which Is not Important. Begin each segment of combat with the combat and how It affected you. (You ware scared. You thought you were going to die., etc.). Many veterans are afraid to mention certain situations when they killed people. for fear of charges being brought against them. This will not happen. Killings during combat are for survival. The government would have to prove you killed on purpose without just cause, and In the case of enemy troops and civilians, this is not possible.
Many off these ten points overlap with each other. You must try to put them in some kind of order. Think about that you want to say for a few weeks before writing It down. Then try to arrange your thoughts In some kind of order. The best solution Is to be brief and to the, point. This is difficult for many veterans,, which Is why so many veterans with PTSD never follow through with a claim. The best average length for a stressor letter Is not more than four pages ,single spaced.
0% Psychoneurotic symptoms which may somewhat adversely affect relationships with others but which
do not cause impairment of working ability.
The psychoneurotic disorder produces, mild social and Industrial impairment.
The symptoms result Is such reduction In Initiative, flexibility, efficiency, and reliability levels as to produce definite Industrial Impairment. There, will be definite Impairment in the ability to establish or maintain affective and wholesome relationships with people.
The veterans ability to establish or maintain effective or favorable relationships with people Is considerably Impaired. By reason of psychoneurotic symptoms the reliability, flexibility, and efficiency levels are so reduced as to result In considerable Industrial Impairment.
The disability severely Impairs the veterans ability to establish and maintain effective or favorable relationships with people. The psychoneurotic symptoms are of such severity and persistence that there Is severe impairment In the ability to obtain and retain employment.
The attitudes of all contacts except the most intimate are so adversely affected as to result In virtual isolation in the community. Total Incapacitating psychoneurotic symptoms bordering on gross repudiation of reality with disturbed thought or behavioral processes associated with almost all daily activities such as fantasy, confusion,, panic, and explosions of aggressive energy resulting In profound retreat from mature behavior will be present. He or she will be demonstrably unable to obtain or retain employment.