PTSD CLAIMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While any traumatic experience can lead to PTSD, a few types of trauma are the most common; sexual assault/abuse, natural disasters, accidents/injuries to oneself or others, or life-threatening situations. Considering these examples makes it understandable why people would associate Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) most frequently with military service members. However, this assumption can be problematic. The fact is: Anyone can develop PTSD when they experience or witness a traumatic event—adult or child, man or woman.

 

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is now included in a new chapter in DSM-5 on Trauma and Stressor Related Disorders. In the DSM-IV, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was addressed as an anxiety disorder. The diagnostic criteria for the manual's next edition identify the trigger to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. The exposure must result from one or more of the following scenarios, in which the individual:

 

  • Re-experiencing covers spontaneous memories of the traumatic event, recurrent dreams related to it, flashbacks, or other intense or prolonged psychological distress. Avoidance refers to distressing memories, thoughts, feelings, or external reminders of the event.

  • Negative cognitions and mood represents myriad feelings, from a persistent and distorted sense of blame of self or others to estrangement from others or markedly diminished interest in activities to an inability to remember key aspects of the event.

  • Finally, arousal is marked by aggressive, reckless, or self-destructive behavior, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance, or related problems. The current manual emphasizes the "flight" aspect associated with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); the criteria of DSM-5 also account for the "fight" reaction often seen.

  • The number of symptoms that must be identified depends on the cluster. DSM-5 would only require that a disturbance continue for more than a month and eliminate the distinction between acute and chronic phases of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

  • Regardless of its trigger, the disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in the individual's social interactions, capacity to work, or other important areas of functioning. It is not the physiological result of another medical condition, medication, drugs, or alcohol.

 

Advocates Note:

If you have been diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the VA will not approve your claim without connecting it to your service. Many veterans believe a PTSD diagnosis proves the condition was caused during their service; this couldn't be further from the truth. You must, without exception, be prepared to address the event by writing a statement describing the event in as much detail as you are able. Make sure to write your account at a time when you have supportive people, such as a therapist or friend, available for you to call if you become overwhelmed. It is challenging to sit down and write about terrible events that you don't even want to think about or remember. You should call a supportive person before you sit down to write and then finish it. This can help you to feel less isolated with your memories. It is ok to say what parts of your experiences you can't remember. Most people can't remember everything about a traumatic event because the body goes into shock and processes information differently than during non-stressful times.

 

 

MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

" Sexual harassment is further defined as "repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character."Military Sexual Trauma (MST) includes any sexual activity where a Service member is involved against their will - they may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities. Other experiences that fall into the category of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) include:

 

  • Unwanted sexual touching or grabbing

  • Threatening, offensive remarks about a person's body or sexual activities

  • Threatening and unwelcome sexual advances

 

The identity or characteristics of the perpetrator, whether the Service member was on or off duty at the time, and whether they were on or off base at the time do not matter. If these experiences occurred while an individual was on active duty or active duty for training, they are considered by VA to be Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is an experience, not a diagnosis or a mental health condition, and as with other forms of trauma, there are a variety of reactions that Veterans can have in response to Military Sexual Trauma (MST). The type, severity, and duration of a Veteran's difficulties will all vary based on factors like:

 

  • Whether they have a prior history of trauma

  • The types of responses from others they received at the time of the Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

  • Whether the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) happened once or was repeated over time

 

Although trauma can be a life-changing event, people are often remarkably resilient after experiencing trauma. Many individuals recover without professional help; others may generally function well in their life but continue to experience some level of difficulties or have strong reactions in certain situations. For some Veterans, the experience of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) may continue to affect their mental and physical health in significant ways, even many years later.

 

  • Strong emotions: feeling depressed; having intense, sudden emotional responses to things; feeling angry or irritable all the time

  • Feelings of numbness: feeling emotionally "flat"; difficulty experiencing emotions like love or happiness

  • Trouble sleeping: trouble falling or staying asleep; disturbing nightmares

  • Difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory: trouble staying focused; frequently finding their mind wandering; having a hard time remembering things

  • Problems with alcohol or other drugs: drinking to excess or using drugs daily; getting intoxicated or "high" to cope with memories of emotional reactions; drinking to fall asleep

  • Difficulty with things that remind them of their experiences of sexual trauma: feeling on edge or "jumpy" all the time; difficulty feeling safe; going out of their way to avoid reminders of their experiences

  • Difficulties with relationships: feeling isolated or disconnected from others; abusive relationships; trouble with employers or authority figures; difficulty trusting others

  • Physical health problems: sexual difficulties; chronic pain; weight or eating problems; gastrointestinal problems

 

Although Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is commonly associated with Military Sexual Trauma (MST), it is not the only diagnosis that can result from MST. For example, VA medical record data indicate that in addition to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the diagnoses most frequently associated with MST among users of VA health care are depression and other mood disorders and substance use disorders. For more information, Veterans can:

 

  • Speak with their existing VA health care provider.

  • Contact the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center.

  • Call Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 to get confidential one-on-one help. Safe Helpline provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week, sexual assault support for the Department of Defense community.

  • Contact their local Vet Center.

  • Veterans should feel free to ask to meet with a provider of a particular gender if it would make them feel more comfortable.

  • Military Sexual Trauma Coordinators - https://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/mstcoordinators.asp

 

Advocates Note:

You must, without exception, be prepared to address the event by writing a statement describing the event in as much detail as you are able. Make sure to write your account at a time when you have supportive people, such as a therapist or friend, available for you to call if you become overwhelmed. It is challenging to sit down and write about terrible events that you don't even want to think about or remember. You should call a supportive person before you sit down to write and then finish it. This can help you to feel less isolated with your memories. It is ok to say what parts of your experiences you can't remember. Most people can't remember everything about a traumatic event because the body goes into shock and processes information differently than during non-stressful times.


 

Military sexual trauma, or Military Sexual Trauma (MST), is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) used to refer to experiences of sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that a Veteran experienced during their military service. The definition used by the VA comes from Federal law (Title 38 U.S. Code 1720D). It is "psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

When we think about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it's typically in the context of active duty service members and veterans—for a good reason. Dangerous and potentially traumatic situations are common occurrences in the context of military service. However, it's important to note that Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not exclusive to this type of trauma. In the U.S., about eight million people experience Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

 

The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans throughout the United States. 702-209-5722