At a time in our history when the United States is engaged in war on two major fronts, the government has announced this week that it is preparing to issue new regulations regarding disability benefits for the veterans who have served our country in combat.
The new ruling will expand coverage for veterans who have been found to have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is common amongst veterans and can often lead to emotional numbness, irritability, panic disorders, and flashbacks. Under the old regulations, veterans were required to document and corroborate specific events that may have lead to the disorder, which critics have long argued is an arduous and often impossible process due to incomplete war documentation and other issues. In fact, though over 150,000 cases of PTSD have been diagnosed in veterans serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, only 78,000 of those cases have been approved for disability claims.
Due to the nature of post traumatic stress disorder, there is often no direct event that contributes to the illness, just a combination of factors and stresses over time. Noncombat members of the military can also experience symptoms of PTSD without seeing direct action, leading many critics and veterans groups to question the current rules.
Under the amended requirements, which apply to all veterans of all wars, the Department of Veterans Affairs will grant compensation to those suffering with PTSD provided that they can show they served in a war zone and in a job consistent with the events leading to the condition. The rule also provides compensation for service members who had valid reasons to fear trauma even if they did not actually experience that trauma.
While many critics say that the new rule is too expensive and may lead to fraudulent claims, veterans’ groups laud it as major progress towards fixing an issue which has long been problematic for many of our soldiers. “This nation has a solemn obligation to the men and women who have honorably served this country and suffer from the emotional and often devastating hidden wounds of war,” the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, said in a statement to The New York Times. “This final regulation goes a long way to ensure that veterans receive the benefits and services they need.”
Disability benefits include financial compensation ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars a month depending on the severity of the condition, and free physical and mental health care for all those who qualify. The new regulations from the Department of Veterans Affairs will go into effect this month and cost around $5 billion over the next several years, say analysts.
Photo thanks to leeroy09481 under creative common license on Flickr.