New veterans policy relaxes PTSD standards

Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress will more easily obtain benefits under a new policy being rolled out by the Obama administration.

The new policy to be implemented next week relaxes the standards for documentation that veterans must show to prove they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The changes are intended to make it easier for veterans to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, senior officials from the agency said.

Veterans Affairs offices across the country are dealing with thousands of new veterans from nearly a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Constant fear of unexpected attack and concern for survival are among the “stressors” for veterans suffering from PTSD, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and recent research studies published by the National Academies on deployment related stress. The new policy is meant to address the complex nature of war experiences and impacts.

Veterans will only need to provide documents from a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist or psychologist that details how their symptoms of post-traumatic stress are related to the circumstances of their service.
Corroborating evidence, specifically fact-finding and research to support the claim, will no longer be necessary, the officials said.

The policy will be implemented next week, according to the officials, who spoke to reporters on Friday.
Studies have shown PTSD patients can benefit significantly from immediate treatment, so the changes are expected to particularly benefit recent war veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Patients are now burdened with a lengthy claim and verification process, something complicated by the approximately 23 million war veterans in the country, including 3.1 million who are on disability compensation.

The Veterans Affairs officials said the change is not expected to increase the number of positive results coming out of veterans’ compensation claims, but instead is anticipated to streamline the clunky process by improving how veterans can claim benefits. They said they did not expect it to increase the cost of benefits.

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