Mental Health Benefits for Veterans Vary by State
Troops returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with mental illness are receiving different levels of disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs depending on where they live, according to a McClatchy news analysis, McClatchy/Miami Herald reports.
There are 43,000 recent veterans receiving monthly mental disability payments, which are worth up to $2,257 for a single person with no children. The variance in monthly payments revealed by the report could deprive some mentally ill veterans of "tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits over their lifetime," McClatchy/Herald reports.
McClatchy's analysis -- the first to compare mental disability payments to veterans by location -- examined three million disability compensation claims records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, as well as separate documents provided by VA. About 31,000 recent veterans are receiving payments for post-traumatic stress disorder, which has emerged as one of the "signature issues of the war on terrorism," as well as one of the most severe, McClatchy/Herald reports.
McClatchy found that PTSD ratings -- which range from 0 to 100 -- are far more likely to be higher at certain regional offices. The analysis showed that among recent veterans processed at a mental disability office in Albuquerque, N.M., 56% were scored with the high ratings for PTSD. Among those processed in Fort Harrison, Mont., 18% were given such high ratings for PTSD. According to the analysis, a recent veteran in Albuquerque is likely to receive larger payments than one in Fort Harrison.
When a number of variables are factored in, average disability payments range from a high of $734 per month in Little Rock, Ark., to a low of $435 per month in Honolulu, according to McClatchy/Herald.
"There's no reason in the world that a veteran from Ohio should be shortchanged on benefits simply because he is from Ohio," Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) said. He added, "And there's no reason a veteran from New Mexico should be getting more benefits simply because he lives in New Mexico" (Adams, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 12/20).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Thursday reported on veterans with less than honorable discharges who are unable to receive benefits for treatment of PTSD. The segment includes comments from Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.); Gary Myers, an attorney and advocate; Patrick Uloth, an Iraq war veteran who received a less than honorable discharge; and Uloth's roommate (Zwerdling, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/20).
Audio and a partial transcript of the segment are available online.