Alpha Veterans Disability Advocate Manager - Allen Gumpenberger

New regulations were released July 13 to make it easier for veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be awarded disability compensation from the VA. The final rule amends “38 Code of Federal Regulations Part 3” and now states that the VA psychiatrist or psychologist needs only to find that the veteran’s stressor resulted in PTSD and that it is consistent with events related to the veteran’s service.

I applaud these changes that will make it easier for veterans with PTSD to have their illness recognized. It is long overdue. However, I find one aspect of this new regulation disturbing, which is the requirement that veterans undergo a full psychiatric evaluation for PTSD with a VA, or VA-contracted, psychiatrist or psychologist. The creators of this legislation have failed to consider the overarching historical context of what veterans suffering from PTSD tend to want to do, which is to avoid the VA or anything to do with government.  This change undermines this sensitive concern and subjects the vet to an invasive VA psychiatric examination which may not be necessary.

I agree that a VA examination should be ordered if the medical evidence to evaluate a disability is insufficient. But, if the private medical records are completely sufficient, why require additional testing? I think this is contrary to what the VA is supposed to be – a fact-finding, non-adversarial, veteran-friendly agency. I don’t think vets claiming PTSD should be forced to adhere to this stipulation if they are uncomfortable to do so and especially if they have trusting relationships with their private psychiatrist or psychologist. These mental health providers already have extensive knowledge of the military history of their patients and are professionally in the position to provide an opinion every bit as, if not more, credible as the VA’s.

Perhaps we disabled veterans should stay engaged in the legislative process and continue to help bring about more positive changes to help  our fellow veterans with PTSD who are still faced with too  much bureaucracy at the VA.

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.