Fortunately, today our understanding of combat and war-induced trauma, together with a healthy societal openness about diagnosis and treatment, means now is as good a time as any to obtain assistance for your Veteran. When it comes to applying for and obtaining service-connected mental disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the key is having a knowledgeable advocate on your side.
VA largely relies on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders when evaluating mental disabilities. The manual was most recently updated in 2013 and is referred to as “DSM-5,” meaning the fifth edition of the manual. You don’t need to know all the details of DSM-5. That’s why you have a VA-accredited representative. What is important is that you (the Veteran) or you (the loved one of a Veteran) recognize signs of possible service-connected mental disorder.
It may be difficult to recall or discover the root cause, but some common indicators of service-connected mental disorder include:
- Difficulty with memory, focus, and/or concentration.
- Periods of depression and periods of elation.
- Significant sleeping, eating, and/or relationship (including intimate relationship) changes.
- Deterioration in hygiene.
- Sleep disrupted by nightmares, startle responses, anxiety (especially for doing certain activities), panic attacks, and other anxiety type symptoms.
- Inability to sleep at night – or inability to adjust to a normal sleep cycle.
- Substance dependence.
Recognizing that you or a loved-one may have a service-connected mental disorder is the big step. Once that step is taken, using a VA-accredited representative to assist you with managing VA’s claims process becomes easy.
Trauma leading to mental disorder can arise in a number of ways. The DSM-5 notes that traumatic stress-related disorders can result from:
- directly experiencing the traumatic event(s);
- witnessing – in person – the event(s) as it/they occurred to others; or
- learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or close friend
We also know now that experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to details of traumatic events – such as witnessing first responders collect human remains or repeated exposure to details of child abuse as part of one’s profession – can lead to traumatic stress-related disorders.
Service-connected trauma can produce horrific symptoms in its victims. Flashbacks and nightmares force the victim to re-live the awful experiences. Mental self-preservation can lead victims to take extreme measures to avoid any reminders, including using drugs and alcohol to suppress memories. Individuals may feel overwhelming guilt. They may become hypervigilant or aggressive. And, sadly, any of these horrendous symptoms can push their victims to suicide.
While working with a medical professional is crucial, your VA-accredited advocate can assist you in asking your medical professional the right questions. Not everyone, including medical professionals, necessarily has as much experience with recognizing service-connected disorders as your VA-accredited advocate. Your VA-accredited advocate can therefore provide guidance which may help determine whether your symptoms (or those of your loved one) are indeed the result of military service.
Public Law 109-461 allows Veterans to hire attorneys to appeal VA benefits rulings. The Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. is one of the few VA-accredited Veteran attorney firms in the United States. Contact https://www.attorneyforveterans.com/contact-us.html today for your FREE consultation.