Some veterans may not know that the hard-to-cope-with feelings they are experiencing, such as fear, anger, irritability, hostility, or depression, has a name – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
During the month of June, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder promoted a campaign to increase awareness about PTSD resources and treatments available to help veterans struggling with their wartime experiences.
PTSD has had different labels in the past, such as “battle fatigue” or “shell shock” and used to be viewed as a temporary condition in combat veterans. PTSD is now recognized as a long-term and severe anxiety disorder caused by severe physical or psychological trauma. It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD symptoms, and incidence is high for those veterans deployed multiple times or who were engaged in longer deployments.
Take, for example, Robert, who deployed to Iraq two times. “After I got back home, I’d get into these moods. I’d get grumpy and irritable. The simplest things would set me off. I didn’t think anything of it until I was diagnosed with PTSD and got treatment.” Robert is now an Alpha claims coordinator and is dedicated to helping veterans submit VA claims for PTSD and other service-related disabilities.
Senate Promotes National PTSD Awareness
The U.S. Senate has also taken steps to heighten national PTSD awareness. Last year, June 27 was designated as National PTSD Awareness Day. Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota developed the resolution. “The stress of war can take a toll on one’s heart, mind and soul. While these wounds may be less visible than others, they are no less real,” Conrad said in a June 2010 press release. “This effort is about awareness, assuring our troops — past and present – that it’s okay to come forward and say they need help. We want to erase any stigma associated with PTSD. Our troops need to know it’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek assistance.” June 27 was the birthday of North Dakota Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, who took his own life just six months after returning home from his second deployment to Iraq.
Older Veterans May Not Know They Have PTSD
Richard is a veteran who lived with PTSD for 43 years but didn’t know it. He never thought to get help for his emotional problems. “My life had completely changed after my tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967. [My Alpha advocate] thought I may be suffering from PTSD. I didn’t even know what that acronym meant… I’d never talked with anyone about problems I faced every day. I was a Marine. We were taught to never talk about our problems. Over the course of several months I was evaluated many times by many doctors. The final diagnosis was that, yes, I do suffer from PTSD as a result of my duty in Vietnam.” With his Alpha advocate’s help, Richard was awarded a 70 percent rating for PTSD and a total disability rating for Individual Unemployability because he couldn’t hold a job. His benefits have helped change his life for the better.
According to the National Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Study, ” a substantial minority of Vietnam theater veterans were suffering from a variety of psychological problems and experiencing a wide range of life-adjustment problems (e.g., marital problems, work difficulties). Unfortunately, only a small number of these veterans actually sought treatment from mental health providers.”
VA Changes PTSD Rules for Disability Claims
Last July, the VA created new rules for PTSD disability claims to make it easier for veterans to get compensated for service-related PTSD. More veterans, such as Richard, are beginning to understand that the emotional difficulties they have had in their lives are PTSD symptoms. They are realizing that it’s okay to talk it out. And it’s okay to get help, including compensation from the VA.
In the comments section of our article “Unhealed Trauma – PTSD in World War II Veterans,” Bradford wrote, “I believe in the men and women who have put on the uniform for America, and I have every hope and confidence that there is healing and recovery to be found for any vet who needs it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and please do not be afraid to ask if the vet you know might need some help.”
If you need help with PTSD symptoms, or want to know more about efforts to increase awareness about PTSD, the VA National Center for PTSD provides a wealth of information including research, resources and where to go for treatment.
For help in filing a VA disability claim or appealing for more in VA compensation please contact Alpha.
Note: All representation coordinated by Alpha is provided by our employees, the Advocates, who are accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). No private organization that trains and employs accredited agents has been legally recognized by the VA for the purposes of preparation, presentation, and prosecution of claims. This work must be done by the Advocates themselves and not organizations.