Unlike a lot of other mental health disorders, post traumatic stress disorder
(or PTSD), can manifest months or even years after a veteran leaves service.
Sometimes, those signs can be subtle and become more disabling as time
goes by. In order to be service-connected for PTSD, you will need to show
that there was an in-service stressor and that you have a current diagnosis
of PTSD. To obtain a current diagnosis of PTSD, you can either file a
claim with the VA and seek a mental health evaluation, or you can contact
a mental health provider in your area.
But how do you show an in-service stressor? Here are some tips:
1. Remember that for purposes of diagnosing PTSD, you need to have been
exposed to death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury,
or actual or threatened sexual violence. You must have been directly exposed,
have been a witness to the event, indirectly exposed by learning a close
friend or family member was involved, or have repeated or extreme indirect
exposure to aversive details, usually in the course of professional duties,
such as being a first responder or picking up body parts, or being a medical
professional dealing with trauma.
2. Don’t assume that the VA will review your service records. Even
if you are a combat veteran, which lowers the bar to prove an in-service
stressor, the VA may not acknowledge that fact immediately. When filing
your claim, include any combat awards or medals you may have received.
3. Do include a detailed stressor statement. The more you can tell the
VA, the easier it will be for the VA to confirm your stressor. Include
the location where you were stationed when the event occurred, the names
of anyone you know who may have been involved, and a general time frame
of when it occurred.
4. If your stressor is that of a personal assault, and you did not report
that assault, there are other ways to confirm the stressor. If you told
a friend or family member about it, a sexual assault counselor, or a chaplain
or other trusted person, they can write a statement in support of your
claim. Journals and letters can also help confirm your stressor. And if
you had any behavioral changes or decrease in performance evaluations,
that can also help.
Remember, while the VA does have a duty to assist you in obtaining confirmation
of your stressors, it is in your best interests to provide as much information
as possible. If you need any assistance with your PTSD claim, please contact
our toll free number at 1-888-883-2483.