Vietnam Veterans & PTSD

PTSD Diagnosis History

The Vietnam War is defined by the VA as the period from February 1961 through May 1975. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition which was first recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. This means that, at the time our Veterans were serving in the Vietnam War, PTSD was not a recognized diagnosis. Thus, their service records and even post-service treatment records may not show treatment for or a diagnosis of PTSD.

Since that time, there have been several updates to the understanding, diagnosis, and classification of PTSD. The key factor in a PTSD diagnosis is a traumatic event, also called a “stressor.” In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, the veteran must have been exposed to an event considered traumatic enough to satisfy the “stressor criterion.”

The VA recognizes that this information documenting the occurrence of the stressor may not be in a veteran’s service records. So, the VA has created a special set of rules regarding the ways in which a veteran can prove the stressor occurred.

Evidence of a Stressor

In the following cases, unless there is clear and convicting evidence to the contrary, the veteran’s statements alone can establish the occurrence of the stressor:

  • if the veteran was diagnosed with PTSD during service, and the claimed stressor is related to service;
  • if the veteran engaged in combat with the enemy and the stressor is related to that combat experience;
  • if the veteran claimed that the stressor is related to his/her fear of the hostile military or terrorist activity, and a VA psychiatrist confirms the stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD; or
  • if the evidence demonstrates that the veteran was a prisoner of war, and the stressor is related to that POW experience.

Evidence of a Stressor Related to Personal Assault

If the PTSD claim is based on personal assault, the following evidence can be used to establish the occurrence of the stressor:

  • records from law enforcement, hospitals or crisis centers, or mental health centers;
  • pregnancy tests or STD tests;
  • statements from family members, roommates, fellow service members, or clergy; or
  • evidence of behavioral changes (request for transfer, deterioration of work performance, substance abuse, episodes of depression or anxiety, panic attacks, etc.).

Additionally, if the veteran’s file is silent for symptoms or treatments for PTSD during or following service, then the veteran and his or her family and friends can submit statements detailing how the veteran acted following the in-service stressor.

Get the Help You Deserve

If you are a Vietnam Veteran or if you are a veteran with questions about what evidence is needed to establish entitlement to disability benefits for PTSD, or the ways in which you can develop the evidence needed to win your case, please contact us today.