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National Veterans Legal Services Program Offers Tips to Help Veterans with PTSD

Released 6/27/11 | Tags: PTSD

PTSD Awareness Day June 27 Raises Awareness



WASHINGTON – Aimee Sherrod served her country in Iraq and Pakistan, but today, the Air Force veteran struggles to leave her home a few times a week to pick up her son at school. Under frequent mortar attacks during her deployment and wirtnessing the horrors of war firsthand, Sherrod came home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault, or disaster. According to the National Center for PTSD at the VA, experts think PTSD occurs in about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; in as many as 10% of Gulf War Veterans, and in about 30% of Vietnam Veterans. Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD.

Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don't go away over time or disrupt your life, you may have PTSD. As the nation observes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day on June 27, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) offers the following tips to help veterans and their families.

Know the symptoms of PTSD. Common symptoms of PTSD include: re-living the traumatic event, feeling numb, avoiding situations that remind you of the traumatic event, suddenly becoming angry or irritable, having difficulty sleeping, having trouble concentrating, fearing for your safety and always feeling on guard, being very startled when something surprises you, or feeling hopeless. These symptoms can surface years after experiencing a traumatic event, and sufferers may also abuse drugs or alcohol, have family problems, or struggle to stay employed.

Seek medical help. Veterans struggling with PTSD are encouraged to seek medical help. Veterans can go to VA medical centers and seek professional medical help for coping with PTSD, or see a private mental health expert. In some cases, veterans are not diagnosed with PTSD because they have another condition that masks the problems caused by PTSD. Veterans, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who suffer from the residuals of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) should be checked by a mental health expert for mental conditions secondary to the TBI. It is possible that veterans suffering from TBI also have secondary PTSD and depression. If you suffer from symptoms of PTSD or depression, you should seek medical treatment and should obtain a medical opinion linking the mental disability (or disabilities) to the TBI.

Get support for you and your family. Free one-on-one and family counseling services are available to veterans at Vet Centers around the country. Support groups are also offered to help you connect with peer support. While Vet Centers are part of the VA healthcare system, paperwork is minimal and Vet Center client folders are kept completely separate from the VA medical system.

Apply for VA benefits if you have PTSD. Recently, the VA announced that to qualify for VA disability benefits for PTSD, many veterans no longer need evidence to corroborate that the stressful event occurred in service. This is especially true for veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD while on active duty or whose stressor involves fear of hostile military or terrorist activity. If you need help filing a VA claim for PTSD, seek out a veteran’s advocate through the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart or another veteran’s service organization to assist you for free with your VA claim. Many veterans service organizations have representatives at VA Regional Offices who can assist you with your claim. If you can’t get to VA Regional Office easily, you can work with your state or county service representative for veterans.

Consider applying to upgrade a less than honorable discharge. If your bad discharge is due to PTSD, you may be able to get an upgrade from a Discharge Review Board or Board for Correction of Military Records. A veteran has a significant chance for an upgrade if he or she had a good record during war, followed by a series of petty offenses during stateside service, and can submit evidence that the offenses were related to the PTSD. Some boards understand PTSD and are sympathetic to veterans with PTSD who apply for an upgrade.

Information to help veterans and service members apply for benefits and get help is available through the American Veterans and Servicemembers Survival Guide, which is available on the NVLSP website at www.nvlsp.org.

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) is an independent, nonprofit veteran’s service organization that has been serving active duty personnel and veterans since 1980. NVLSP strives to ensure that our nation honors its commitment to our 25 million veterans and active duty personnel by providing them the federal benefits they have earned through their service to our country. NVLSP offers training for attorneys and advocates, connects veterans and active duty personnel with pro bono legal help, publishes the nation’s definitive guide on veteran’s benefits, and represents and litigates for veterans and their families before the VA, military discharge review agencies, and federal courts. For more information go to www.nvlsp.org.

Media contact: Ami Neiberger-Miller, ami@steppingstonellc.com



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