VA Changes PTSD Guidelines to Enable Treatment

Trauma is all too often part of the treatment process. We are always keeping an eye on the news to see stories that highlight the changing dynamic of trauma’s perception by entities like the military.

Military personnel who are on active duty often develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) upon returning home as they try to deal with the experiences they encountered. A new policy by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) makes it simpler for non-combat veterans to get the help they need.
The new rule allows all veterans to receive disability benefits for PTSD once a VA psychiatrist diagnosis the disorder. This is a dramatic change to the former rule, which required a claims adjudicator to confirm that a veteran was traumatized through statements from peers, incident reports and other evidence. This was a time-consuming and difficult process that delayed necessary PTSD treatment for people suffering from the disorder.


The change was made in response to the increasing number of support troops, not just people on the front lines, who are being diagnosed with PTSD.
“Any one of those soldiers are subject to the same dangers or threats. Those support troops drive the same roads combat troops drive on,” said Maj. Cory Angell, a spokesman for the National Guard. “The threats are everywhere. Quite often the real threat comes from IEDs (improvised explosive devices).”
According to the VA, symptoms of PTSD appear in a large number of the 2 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Anywhere from 10 to 18 percent of troops are likely to develop PTSD at some point after returning home.

Expanded Coverage for PTSD Treatment
The new rule took effect July 13, 2010, and applies to all veterans regardless of their period of service. To be applicable, the rule states that the stressor must be related to a “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity” and the claimed stressor must be “consistent with the places, types, and circumstances of the veteran’s service.”
PTSD often develops after witnessing or experiencing an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury. People who develop the disorder may re-experience the trauma, have constant nightmares or flashbacks, and withdraw from social activities. Women who experience trauma are prone to developing an addiction or abusing alcohol.
The change in VA rules will also have a huge impact on women veterans, who are not allowed to serve in combat roles. That meant they always had the hurdle of providing sufficient evidence to prove they had PTSD and receive benefits. Because the new rule pertains to non-combat veterans, women will have an easier time getting needed benefits, both for military-related trauma and any physical or sexual trauma they may have experienced while on duty.
Veterans who were denied PTSD benefits under the old rule can reapply under the new rule. Doing so can give them access to outpatient PTSD treatment and psychotherapy, as well as other treatment options, such as time at a residential treatment center that specializes in PTSD.

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