Archive for July, 2010

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Does VA’s new proposed PTSD rule mean that I don’t need corroboration for my PTSD stressor?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

UPDATE

The proposed new PTSD regulations are now in effect. The text of the regulations can be found at http://frwebgate1.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/PDFgate.cgi?WAISdocID=K23HwW/0/2/0&WAISaction=retrieve

VA’s fact sheet about the changes can be found at http://www.va.gov/PTSD_QA.pdf

Keep in mind that this does not entirely remove the requirement that PTSD stressors be corroborated – only in specified circumstances, involving situations of hostile military or terrorist activity. The asserted stressor must be consistent with the conditions of the veteran’s service. The new rules also require that a VA examiner give the opinion that the assereted stressor would be sufficient to cause PTSD.

PROPOSED REGULATIONS AUGUST 2009
VA has proposed a change to the PTSD regulations that will eliminate the requirement that a stressor be corroborated if it arises out of “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.” There will also be a requirement that a VA psychiatrist or psychologist give an opinion that the stressor is adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD and that the veteran’s symptoms are related to that claimed stressor.

If these conditions are met, the veteran will not have to provide additional evidence to show that the stressor occurred, as long as the stressor is consistent with the places, types and circumstances of the veteran’s service, and as long as there is not clear and convincing evidence that the stressor did not take place.

The PTSD regulations already provided that no additional evidence was necessary if it was a combat-related stressor and the veteran served in combat.

What does this mean in practical effect? If you served in an area where there was “hostile military or terrorist activity” taking place, you no longer have to prove that you were “in combat.” Many times, the combat requirement was used to require additional evidence if the veteran served in a combat area, such as Vietnam or Iraq, but did not have a “combat” MOS. If your official MOS was, let’s say, “aircraft mechanic,” it could be very difficult to convince VA that your stressors were combat related and that you served in combat.

Under the proposed new regulation, VA is now recognizing that other stressors, such as “constant vigilance against unexpected attack, the absence of a defined front line, the difficulty of distinguishing enemy combatants from civilians, [and] the ubiquity of improvised explosive device” are characteristic of “deployment to a war zone,” regardless of whether you were directly serving in a combat role.

It’s important to understand what this doesn’t change – additional evidence will still be required to show that a stressor occurred, if it didn’t take place in a war zone and was not related to “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity.”

The proposed rule, along with VA’s explanation of the rule, can be found at

http://frwebgate1.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/PDFgate.cgi?WAISdocID=207646362677+5+2+0&WAISaction=retrieve

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