WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is encouraging military veterans previously denied benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder to start reapplying, now that the agency’s tedious claims process has ended.
As of Tuesday, the VA no longer requires veterans to provide documented proof of events that might have caused symptoms of the disorder. Instead, a department psychologist or psychiatrist will screen a veteran to verify that the stressful experiences they recall are consistent with their military service and PTSD symptoms, including irritability, flashbacks, deep depression, and other emotional or behavior problems.
“We are acknowledging the inherently stressful nature of the places and circumstances of military service, in which the reality and fear of hostile or terrorist activities is always present,” Michael Wolcoff, VA acting undersecretary for benefits, said Monday.
The new policy means that VA will for the first time recognize the nature of military conflicts to include guerrilla warfare, insurgent activity, the absence of a defined front line, and the inability of service members to distinguish between potential allies and threats.
The changes apply to pending claims and any received on or after Tuesday. Veterans previously denied PTSD benefits should also reapply, officials said.
More than 400,000 veterans of all military operations, of which about 19,000 are women, receive benefits for the disorder, according to the VA.
Officials could not say how much the policy change will cost, but congressional estimates suggest the VA will pay at least $5.2 billion in PTSD benefits payments over the next decade.