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Can Non-Combat Veterans Get Service Connected for PTSD?

Posted by Berry Law on February 11, 2022 in PTSD

PTSD is a common disorder that many Veterans struggle with. Some forms are more extreme than others, but all cases of PTSD deserve proper care and attention.

Applying for benefits for your PTSD can be a long, complicated process. The best way to tackle the VA process is knowing ahead of time what to expect and having help along the way.

Many Veterans have PTSD but never experienced any combat. Because of this, some wonder whether or not they can get a service connection for their PTSD. In reality, PTSD is not just a combat-related disorder. This article will go over what is required to get a service connection for your PTSD and how you can get the benefits you deserve.

The One Thing You Need in a Non-Combat Claim for PTSD

One thing, in particular, is absolutely required for claims related to non-combat forms of PTSD. In all of these scenarios, you need a buddy letter from a first-hand witness to verify that you were physically present and witnessed the stressor event.

It is not enough to prove that the event occurred. You have to prove that you were physically present for the event and that you witnessed it.

For example, say a Veteran is applying for benefits for non-combat PTSD, and the stressor event was a natural disaster. They have to prove that the event occurred, that they witnessed the event, and that it was the cause of their PTSD.

If the claim misses this crucial piece of information, it will be denied by the VA. PTSD claims are commonly denied due to the VA’s particular process for that disorder in particular. Thus, it is crucial to know what evidence you need and gather it accordingly.

What Do You Need To Know When Applying for PTSD Benefits?

The VA uses special rules when going over applications for PTSD distinct from how they operate for applications for other service-connected conditions. These special rules can make getting the rating you deserve more difficult.

When you apply for your PTSD, the main requirement is to show that your condition is service-connected. If you cannot prove this, the VA will deny your claim. 

Your claim will have to contain a few things to prove service connection. 

  • For one, your PTSD must be clinically diagnosed under the standards of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 
  • Second, there must be proof of an in-service stressor: an event, situation, or injury that caused your PTSD. 
  • Finally, there must be medical evidence of a link between the in-service stressor and the current PTSD diagnosis.

Many times, extra evidence will be required to prove your claim further. This can either be from service or personnel records or witness statements. Sometimes, the extra proof is not needed. However, if you have any extra documentation that would help make your claim more convincing, then it is best to have it on hand in case.

Determining the Stressor

Getting the rating you deserve for PTSD can be more difficult than for other conditions. This is particularly true for non-combat PTSD. 

This does not undermine the trauma which the Veteran experienced. Rather, the VA usually denies these claims due to a lack of evidence. It can be difficult for Veterans to find the evidence they need to prove their claim, but because the VA is under certain rules and regulations, they have to meet certain levels of proof to grant a claim.

Your evidence needs to determine what stressor caused the PTSD. These events can range from witnessing death to witnessing a sexual assault.

What Is the Rating System for PTSD?

Once you gather the proof you need for your claim and it is granted, you will be given a certain rating that determines the benefits you will receive.

The scale that the VA uses for PTSD is 0-100 percent. They increase in 10 percent increments, with 0 percent being the lowest rating.

While the 0 percent rating recognizes that the Veteran has PTSD, it also means that the VA did not find the evidence showing that the PTSD is severe enough to interfere with the person’s life. Therefore, no benefits come with this rating.

The highest score that a Veteran can receive is 100 percent. This means that the Veteran will receive the full benefits since the VA believes that the Veteran’s symptoms are that severe.

Do Combat-Related PTSD and Non-Combat PTSD Share the Same Symptoms?

Are the symptoms for combat-related PTSD and non-combat PTSD the same? There are some similarities, but there are some differences as well. Though they share similar symptoms, the severity of symptoms is greater with patients who have combat-related PTSD than those who have non-combat PTSD. 

Of course, both forms should be treated and given the attention they deserve. However, the methods of treatment may be different.

Can I Appeal a Rating Decision Made by the VA?

Sometimes, Veterans get the results of their claims, only to find out that they did not get the rating they were hoping for. Even though a claim may not have been completely denied, the Veteran is not getting the benefits they need.

In these situations, you can appeal the VA’s decision and seek a higher rating for your already proved service-connected disability. There are a few ways to go about this. 

The Veteran can ask that someone from a higher level in the VA go over the evidence they already have. This is helpful if someone less experienced overlooked important evidence in their review. 

Sometimes, the VA makes its decision due to a lack of evidence, so you will have to submit more evidence to get an increased rating. In this scenario, you will have to think through other sources that you can pull from to make your claim more convincing. 

Finally, you can appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals and go through their appeal process.

If and when you decide to appeal, it is best to have an attorney who is familiar with what the VA requires and expects. This will ensure that you have everything you need to make a convincing appeal and get the benefits you need.

Conclusion

PTSD is a serious disorder that affects the lives of many Veterans. Even for those who did not experience combat, PTSD is still prevalent.

If you show symptoms of PTSD, it is best not to wait. If Veterans take too long to get their PTSD diagnosed, it could lead to worse symptoms and outcomes. The best thing to do is to reach out to an experienced attorney that can help you gather the evidence you need and make a convincing claim so that you can receive benefits for your service-connected disability.

For any more information or questions that you may have regarding VA claims, visit our website.

Sources:

PTSD networks of veterans with combat versus non-combat types of index trauma | NCBI

What Is PTSD? | American Psychiatric Association 

Posttraumatic stress disorder: from diagnosis to prevention | NCBI