New Hope For Veterans Suffering From PTSD

Guest post by Matt Puettmann

First they fought for their country, then they came home and fought for their rights.  And thousands of veterans discharged with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will benefit from their efforts.

Because of the nature of the current conflicts, PTSD has been on the rise among service members.  As many as one in eight returning soldiers suffer from it.  They are surrounded by combat 24/7, and are under constant fire from mortar rounds and roadside bombs.   The resulting stress and combat-related mental ailments can result in suicide, disrupted marriages and even problems in children that extend the trauma across generations.

By law, the military is required to give any veteran medically discharged for PTSD a disability rating of 50 percent, which allows a veteran to qualify for disability retirement benefits. But that wasn’t happening for many affected service members.

Seven veterans, who had experienced combat events that resulted in developing PTSD, came home and received discharges due to that diagnosis.  Some received no disability rating at all and others were awarded disability ratings much less than the law required.  In fact, the rating wasn’t even enough to cover the cost of needed treatment.  Together, they filed a class action lawsuit to require enforcement of the law.

The lawsuit covered Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who were discharged because of PTSD between December 17, 2002 and October 14, 2008, and were denied benefits.  It took three years, but under the terms of the settlement, these veterans will finally receive their due.

When approved, the settlement could result in 1029 veterans who were denied benefits receiving several years’ worth of back pay as well as additional benefits such as:

  • Lifetime military disability compensation and eligibility to apply for combat related special compensation
  • Lifetime military healthcare (Tricare) for a veteran, spouse and children until at least age 18
  • Reimbursement for expenses paid for the medical treatment for the veteran, spouse and minor children from the date of the veteran’s separation from military service.

Another 66 veterans can expect to be awarded the same benefits if they receive a disability rating of 30 percent or higher when they apply to the VA…and 1066 additional veterans who received disability ratings less than 50 percent will receive an increase in their ratings and possibly be eligible for back pay as well.

Although the lawsuit sets a precedent for the appropriate disability ratings for veterans discharged with PTSD, it only addresses the segment of veterans defined within the one specific discharge date range.  It does not address the challenges and difficulties facing veterans from earlier conflicts.

Sadly, with wars being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan and devastating natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, there has been plenty of opportunity to study PTSD effects and treatment.  There have been tremendous advancements in recent years, using therapy, medications, even virtual-reality simulations to enhance proven treatments.  This progress offers the best hope PTSD sufferers have seen in years.

And thanks to a lawsuit pursued by veterans for veterans…with its additional financial support for medical treatment…more of our military service members will now have access to these new, more effective therapies.

Guest post provided by Matt Puettmann.  Matt, a graduate of the University of Missouri, is a Content Manager at the VA Mortgage Center .com, the nation’s number one dedicated VA lender.  He is proud to serve those who have served our country through the education and discussion of military and veteran issues, including PTSD, homelessness, VA benefits, and personal finance.

The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele.


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