Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results from undergoing or witnessing any number of stressful events — or stressor — and regardless of whether a stressor occurs in combat or not, veterans may be able to collect VA disability because of it. It is true that veterans who have developed PTSD as a result of combat have a more straightforward path to receiving benefits, but for veterans who developed it due to non-combat stressors, VA is receptive to your claims.
A Refresher on PTSD
PTSD is a mental health condition most often caused by exposure to death, threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence done upon the sufferer or to someone close to them. It is characterized by recurring distressing memories, nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of triggers related to the trauma, detachment, anger, irritability, and trouble sleeping, among other symptoms.
Combat-related PTSD may come from any kind of enemy contact, including firefights, ambushes, IED explosions. Since PTSD varies in severity, and affects all individuals differently, veterans may be more affected by certain stressors than others. In these cases, there’s little questions as to whether the PTSD is service-connected or not. In most cases, a veteran’s lay statement is enough to earn a service connection, since enough corroborating evidence should exist to back up their claim. This includes service records, citations and medals, and combat action reports.
Non-combat-related PTSD must be service-connected, meaning it must be related to a veteran’s service, and may include traffic collisions, training accidents, military sexual trauma, survivor’s guilt, fear of hostile military, and ongoing exposure to death and violence, to name a few. And because it is not directly related to combat, it requires a higher burden of proof to earn a service connection and VA disability benefits.
How to Submit a Claim for Non-Combat PTSD
First off, don’t let yourself be deterred by our warning that a higher burden of proof is required to receive benefits for non-combat PTSD. You will be going through the same basic process VA uses to review claims for most other conditions. Just remember, claims for combat-related PTSD simply follow a more straightforward process. It doesn’t mean non-combat PTSD claims are inherently more difficult to prove. You simply need to ensure you have the right forms of proof.
To prove a service connection, you must include the following in your claim:
- Current diagnosis of PTSD
- Statement from you describing the service-connected stressor
- The description of your stressor matching your service records
- Medical opinion from a psychiatrist or psychologist that the stressor is sufficient to cause PTSD
To expedite the process, and to glean as much information about the stressor and your PTSD, you must first fill out VA Form 21-0781, which requests all the details regarding the date, time, place, and circumstances of the stressor. Should you have trouble filling out this form or remembering all of the details, it falls on VA to assist you with it.
Disability Ratings and Assistance with your Non-Combat PTSD Claim
VA rates PTSD on a scale of 0-100, and may award your a rating of 0, 10, 30, 50, 70, or 100, depending on the severity of your condition and your occupational and social impairment.
PTSD is a serious condition, and regardless of how it was developed, it must be taken seriously. If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD, caused by combat or non-combat stressors, you should seek out disability benefits to help with your condition. To help with your claim or to start an appeal, you can reach us at 844-VET-LAWS or fill out our online form.