Department of Veterans Affairs To Review Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Claims
The Department of Veterans Affairs beginning in September will conduct a yearlong review of about one-third of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder -- or about 72,000 cases -- after an internal study found inconsistencies in how claims were decided, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. According to the internal study, more than 25% of PTSD cases reviewed lacked adequate proof of a service-related stressor.
Often difficult to diagnose and quantify, PTSD is a mental illness characterized by subjective symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares. VA spent $4.3 billion on PTSD disability payments last year. The number of veterans with PTSD who received compensation benefits rose nearly 80% between 1999 and 2004 from 120,265 to 215,871. The increase can be attributed in part to veterans returning from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as rising awareness of the illness, VA spokesperson Phil Budahn said.
In the yearlong review, VA will examine veterans whose claims were approved between 1999 and 2004 and who received full disability benefits, $2,299 a month, for PTSD alone or in combination with other conditions, Budahn said. If the review determines that veterans did not include adequate proof of a stressor, they could lose their benefits.
VA said it will work with veterans to help them prove their cases but will be wary of possible fraud.
VA Inspector General Richard Griffin said, "Some disabilities are inherently prone to subjective rating decisions, especially conditions such as PTSD, where much of the information needed to make a rating decision is not physically apparent. This subjectivity leads to inconsistency."
Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, said, "We need to pay as much attention to improper denials as we do to improper grants."
Randy Reese, national service director for Disabled American Veterans, said that the review will divert the necessary resources from VA's overload of disability claims yet to be processed (Carroll, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/11).