Disability benefits eased for war veterans with PTSD

Shreveport, LA (KSLA) - Nightmares, flashbacks, and deep depression are all symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD, which is many times diagnosed in veterans of war. But a big change is on the way for combat veterans who need disability benefits. The federal government is now making it easier for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to receive disability.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to announce Monday that it will no longer require veterans to prove what might have triggered their illness in order to qualify for disability related to PTSD.

"We're seeing an awful lot of people come back from the present conflict with PTSD and other anxiety related symptoms," said Dr. Dean Robinson from the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center.

According Dr. Robinson, each year, close to 1000 veterans are diagnosed with the illness at the local Overton Brooks VA Medical Center. Currently, veterans have to document specific events that might have caused their PTSD and prove that they served in a war zone.

"It's been a paper trail to have to come up with some documents to show where they've been, what they've done and then have to go through interviews," said Bob Yates, a local retired veteran, "a process that often times makes it very difficult."

"The nature of their problem is such that the constant reminders of what they went through tend to trigger the symptoms," added Dr. Robinson.

Under new regulations, veterans will be screened by VA medical staff to confirm that their claims are consistent with the location and circumstances of military service.

"I hope that does a lot to help people that have that problem," said Joseph Lott who is also a retired veteran. Lott says he knows how serious the condition can be.

"Not even the same person that you once knew, they're so stressed out."

The new regulations, which would apply to veterans of all wars comes with a price tag of about five billion dollars over a period of years and Dr. Robinson says it is well worth the price.

"I think in the long run we will save more than that by helping these people early in the process," added Dr. Robinson.

A national study estimates that 300-thousand returning veterans have symptoms of PTSD.