Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

New PTSD policy begins Tuesday

By Ed O'Keefe

The Department of Veterans Affairs is encouraging military veterans previously denied benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder to start reapplying Tuesday as its long-standing, tedious claims process comes to an end.

Starting Tuesday, the VA will no longer require veterans to provide documented proof of events that might have caused symptoms of the disorder. A department psychologist or psychiatrist instead will screen a veteran to verify that the stressful experiences they recall are consistent with their military service and PTSD symptoms, including irritability, flashbacks,deep depression and other emotional or behavior problems.

“We are acknowledging the inherently stressful nature of the places and circumstances of military service, in which the reality and fear of hostile or terrorist activities is always present,” Michael Walcoff, VA acting undersecretary for benefits, said Monday.

The new policy means that VA for the first time will recognize the nature of military conflicts to include guerrilla warfare, insurgent activity, the absence of a defined front line and the inability of service members to distinguish between potential allies and threats.

The changes apply to pending claims and any received on or after Tuesday. Veterans previously denied PTSD benefits should also reapply, officials said.

More than 400,000 veterans of all military operations receive benefits for the disorder, of which about 19,000 are women, according to the VA.

Officials could not say how much the policy change will cost, but congressional estimates suggest the VA will pay at least $5.2 billion in PTSD benefits payments over the next decade.

"The system has always paid for this,” Walcoff said, “whether the system pays because the veteran comes to one of our centers and identifies the condition, whether he’s being treated at a medical center for other conditions and this comes up, or whether he doesn’t get treated at all and society pays in other ways.”

In addition to monetary costs, the new policy should reduce the amount of time it takes to process claims, in some cases by years, Walcoff said.

Officials anticipate that the changes should make life easier for veterans such as Robert Kingsley, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran who applied for PTSD benefits more than two years ago. Shortly after speaking last week with The Washington Post, Kingsley coincidentally learned that his PTSD claims had been denied. The reason? A spelling mistake on his forms.

“I guess I’m the last victim of the old rule,” Kingsley said Monday. But he remains optimistic: Department officials promised to revisit his claims after he spoke Monday with officials at an event announcing the policy changes.

And if those efforts fail, “I will apply again,” he said.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 12, 2010; 8:57 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Military  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Federal Eye on Congressional logjam, federal worker survey, 'don't ask, don't tell' (Video)
Next: 'Don't ask, don't tell' federal court case set to start


Isn't it amazing that only our side get ptsd?
The good ole USA never runs out of war money.

Posted by: bloomsgardenflowers | July 13, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

I got PTSD riding the Metro this morning. Where do I get my money?

Posted by: jiji1 | July 13, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company