February 18, 2008 – The Veterans Affairs Department has dumped a policy requiring combat vets to verify in writing that they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before filing a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder, said the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. [VCS Clarification: This applies only to veterans diagnosd with PTSD while in the military. VCS is awaiting further details of this new VA policy.]
“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 had to provide written verification — a statement from a commander or doctor, or testimony from co-workers — that he or she was involved in a traumatic situation in order to receive disability compensation for PTSD from VA. The Defense Department uses the same rules in evaluating PTSD for disability retirement pay.
In Iraq, troops joke about keeping a pen and paper on hand in case they witness a shooting or explosion or are injured themselves. That way, they can run around and have all their buddies sign a quick statement saying it really happened. The joke loses steam when a Marine has to prove he was involved in a traumatizing event when he had a hand blown off in that event, or when a soldier has to prove he watched his friends die to qualify for benefits.
The rule also slows the process as veterans wait for yet more documentation before their claims may be processed.
Akaka said he asked VA Secretary James Peake if the rule was necessary, and asked that it be removed. Peake agreed.
“I am pleased that the secretary took quick action to reverse this requirement after it was brought to his attention,” Akaka said.
In the future, veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD through a medical examination with no further proof necessary, Akaka said, adding that he’s been told that Peake has already informed VA regional offices of the decision.
VA officials were not immediately available for comment Monday, a federal holiday.