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Compton: Proving PTSD before leaving service

By George Compton
Saturday, December 20, 2008

Q. I am being placed on the Temporary Disabled Retired List at a rating of 30 percent for PTSD. I understand it is difficult to get the VA to recognize PTSD; what do I need to do to get proof of why I have PTSD before I get out? Also, how much will I get paid while on TDRL?

A. Veterans who claim service-connection after leaving the service need to have a verifiable stressor to have caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For some veterans, that is a problem, especially if there is a long time between service and a diagnosis. In your case, you have been diagnosed in service so the VA does not need you to prove a stressor.

Even though you are rated 30 percent, you will be paid 50 percent of your base pay. You will have a re-evaluation at a year to 18 months to see if your condition has stabilized.

If your condition is still at least 30 percent disabling you will be permanently retired. At that time your pay will be based on the percentage of disability. You will have the same benefits as other retirees (i.e. commissary, health). If the evaluation of your condition is then rated at less than 30 percent you will be separated with severance pay based on rank and time in service.

You also need to file a claim with the VA for that condition and any other medical conditions that were not considered in your "Fit for Duty" evaluation. Your rating from the military will never change, but if your condition becomes more severe your VA rating can increase. Also, depending on rank and time in service, VA compensation could be paid at a higher rate than retired pay.

Q. My mother is in an assisted living facility and a gentleman contacted her and said he was representing the VA and would help her file a claim for a "hidden benefit" based on my father's military service. Our family is expected to pay for this service. I am receiving compensation from the VA, and I did not pay for help in filing my claim. Is this something new?

A. No one from the VA or any representative from a VA-accredited organization charges a veteran or their family for assistance in filing a claim.

There are no "hidden benefits." In this case we are talking about a pension for a widow of a wartime veteran who has limited income and assets.

— George Compton, retired Army colonel, is the veterans service officer for the County of Ventura, Human Services Agency. Send your questions to Veterans Service Office, 1701 Pacific Ave., Suite 110, Oxnard, CA 93033; phone number: 385-6366; or fax: 385-6371.

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