Countless soldiers returning to the U.S. from Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress, or PTSD. These veterans return home depressed, aggressive, moody, on edge, and prone to flashbacks, disorientation, and heavy drinking. But many soldiers with PTSD have had trouble getting therapy and benefits from the Veterans’ Administration (VA) to treat the condition. Recent changes to the claims process will make it easier for many of these service men and women to get the treatment they’ve needed for months.
Previously, there were two major hurdles facing returning soldiers. First, diagnosis, and second, compensation to cover treatment. Soldiers report being given medicine and no therapy, or counseling that skims the surface, focusing on the person’s marriage rather than the trauma they experienced overseas. Even with a diagnosis, disability compensation and treatment coverage have been hard to secure from the VA. Until now, being a returning soldier with PTSD has not been enough to secure therapy from the VA: a person had to document dates, times, and specific incidents to prove that the PTSD was caused by military service and not some other experience. But the new claims process makes things much easier. Military service in a combat zone (including medics, combat analysts, and other non direct-combat personnel) and a diagnosis are all that’s needed for disability coverage and treatment.
Treatment and therapy for PTSD is essential for the health and well-being of both the veteran and his or her family. Untreated, the condition worsens over time, and often people without access to therapy will turn to alcohol or other destructive behaviors in an attempt to cope or self-medicate. Veteran suicides have gained a growing spotlight in the national media as people try to deal with PTSD on their own after being denied assistance from the VA. These new, more accessible claims requirements are also retroactive. As such, they’re expected to deliver treatment and PTSD therapy to potentially thousands of individuals who have been needing it for quite some time.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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