By Emily Long
July 10, 2010The Veterans Affairs Department will ease its standards for awarding benefits to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, senior agency officials said Friday.
Under current regulations, noncombat veterans must wait for extensive investigations into the events that led to their PTSD to be completed before they can receive benefits. The new rule eliminates those records searches, streamlining the claims process and putting noncombat veterans on an equal footing with those who served in combat. It also acknowledges the stresses of modern warfare that can lead to PTSD, such as constant vigilance and difficulty distinguishing enemy combatants from civilians.
According to officials, under the new standards, a veteran's statement alone can be considered evidence of a PTSD-causing event. A VA psychiatrist or psychologist then must verify the veteran is experiencing PTSD and his or her claim is consistent with service performed. The new regulation will expedite claims processing, but veterans still must show their service experience supports a PTSD diagnosis.
Officials estimate that 400,000 veterans currently receive compensation for PTSD, and 3.1 million get disability benefits. The new process isn't expected to increase the number of claims paid or the cost to VA. Veterans with the most serious PTSD claims receive approximately $2,700 each month.
The rule will be published in the Federal Register on Monday or Tuesday, officials said.
By Emily Long
July 10, 2010