New VA PTSD rule should bring help for veterans

The rule change should mean more veterans returning from battle will get the help they need.


Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has been pushing to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since he took command of the VA in early 2009.

Change comes slowly to the huge bureaucracy that is the VA.

But on Monday something was accomplished when it was announced a new rule was adopted that should make it easier for troops who return from battle to get the PTSD support they need.

Veterans will no longer have to prove their PTSD was triggered by specific bomb explosion or combat event.

Instead, a VA psychologist or psychiatrist will screen veterans to verify that the stressful experiences they recall are consistent with their military service and PTSD symptoms, according to The Washington Post.

"We are acknowledging the inherently stressful nature of the places and circumstances of military service, in which the reality and fear of hostile or terrorist activities is always present," said Michael Wolcoff, VA acting undersecretary for benefits.

The Post reports the new policy, for the first time, recognizes the nature of military conflicts to include guerrilla warfare, insurgent activity, the absence of a defined front line and the inability of service members to distinguish between potential allies and threats.

The rule change -- as long as it is applied with compassion and common sense -- should be a huge improvement.

Psychological wounds of war are as devastating physical wounds.

"The hidden wounds of war are being addressed vigorously and comprehensively by this administration as we move (the) VA forward in its transformation to the 21st century," Shinseki said soon after he took office.

Shinseki's goals are coming to fruition.

The rule changes apply to pending claims and any received on or after Tuesday, The Post reported. Veterans previously denied PTSD benefits can reapply for treatment or compensation.

This rule change should have been adopted years ago. The nation has a responsibility to care for those who put their lives on the line in defense of the country.

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