PTSD claims can be trickier than other VA disability compensation claims. This is, in part, because most veterans claiming PTSD must provide evidence of a “stressor event.” That is, the veteran must show documentation of the stressful event—combat, for example–that caused their PTSD.
Though the Department of Defense (DoD) keeps records of all combat events, from IED attacks to friendly fire, many veterans aren’t able to use those records to verify their stressor event. These records often aren’t included in a veteran’s personnel file (or even his or her unit’s after action reports) that VA uses to evaluate claims.
In fact, CCK recently obtained official documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that reveal the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has denied nearly 100,000 disability compensation claims for PTSD since 2003 because the veteran was unable to verify his or her stressor event.
Through our research on the topic, we located documents previously requested through FOIA that list every combat event that occurred in Iraq from January 2004 to December 2007. The list specifies the date, time and location of each combat event, making it potentially useful to veterans who are attempting to verify their stressor event for a PTSD claim.
Even veterans whose PTSD claims were denied years ago may be able to use this information to reopen their claims and get the benefits they deserve. VA regulations allow veterans to reopen a claim with “new and material” evidence, meaning evidence that has not previously been considered by VA officials as part of your claim file and that is relevant to your claim. Given that these records only recently came to light and that documentation of a stressor event is not only relevant but central to a claim for PTSD, they should easily meet the VA’s standards.
Aside from eating disorders, VA rates all mental health conditions using the same diagnostic criteria. Therefore, PTSD is rated at 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100% using VA’s General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders. These ratings are based on the level of social and occupational impairment the veteran’s PTSD presents. Veterans are not required to meet all of the rating criteria in order to qualify for that rating. The symptoms listed in each level of the rating formula are simply examples to demonstrate the types of impairment commonly found at that assigned percentage rating. The rating criteria for PTSD are as follows:
- “100% – total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name
- 70% – occupational and social impairment with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships
- 50% – occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g. retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships
- 30% – occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events)
- 10% – occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or symptoms controlled by continuous medication
- 0% – a mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication”
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