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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”)

PTSD is probably the most common psychiatric disorder associated with military conflict. Yet, it can be the most difficult to prove. There are three elements to a PTSD claim. First, the claimant must have a present diagnosis of PTSD made by a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed social worker or other mental health care practitioner.

Second, the veteran’s PTSD must have been caused by an in-service stressor(s). Very generally, a stressor is some traumatic event or incident likely to cause mental disorder. Examples of stressors are engaging in combat or a combat-related incident or witnessing fatal or near-fatal accidents. The evidence necessary to prove an in-service stressor depends upon whether the veteran engaged in combat or not. If the claimant can establish that he or she engaged in combat, then generally the veteran’s statement about the occurrence of the stressor will be accepted as sufficient proof. But, if the claimant is not a combat veteran, he or she must submit independent evidence corroborating or verifying the statement about the occurrence of the stressor. For most non-combat stressors claims, the in-service stressor requirement raises the most difficult proof problems. Military records are the best way to corroborate in-service stressors. For instance, if the claimant alleges that his unit came under missile and/or mortar attack, morning reports or daily logs may contain entries verifying these attacks. Proof of a stressor may come in the form of a “buddy statement,” a written statement from a fellow soldier who also witnessed the traumatic event.

The third requirement for a PTSD claim is the nexus requirement. Just like all claims, the PTSD claim must contain proof of a causal link between the in-service incident and the present disability. That means that a medical expert, (here, a medical health practitioner) must opine that the in-service stressor caused the claimant’s present PTSD.

Available Resources 

Veterans who are struggling with PTSD symptoms should be aware of the available VA resources to get help. The following are some of the available facilities:

VA Medical Centers

VA Outpatient Clinics

Vet Centers
VA PTSD Programs

VA Suicide Prevention Coordinators

VA Chaplains

How do you know if you have PTSD?

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories or nightmares of the event(s), sleeplessness, loss of interest, or feeling numb, anger, and irritability, frequent emotional outbursts, feelings of isolation, feelings of guilt, feelings of hopelessness, easily startled or spooked, suicidal thoughts, avoidance of people (even family members), loss of memory, inability to concentrate, excessive drinking to ease anxiety or stress. Sometimes these symptoms show up months or years after the stressful event(s). They may also come and go. If these problems don’t go away or are getting worse—or you feel like they are disrupting your daily life—you may have PTSD.

Veterans & PTSD 

It is no secret that many veterans coming back from a combat deployment are often plagued with PTSD symptoms. By some estimates, one in five vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan experience symptoms of PTSD or major depression. (There are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam). Sadly many of these service members don't seek treatment because they fear it will harm their careers. Untreated, PTSD and depression can lead to cascading problems, such as drug use, marital problems, unemployment and even suicide.

What is Military Sexual Trauma (MST)?

Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to both in-service sexual harassment and sexual assault. Both men and women soldiers can be victims of MST. Sexual harassment, without assault, may involve offensive sexual comments, unwanted sexual propositions or attention, overt requests for sex, implied demands for sex through promises of reward (e.g. promotion) or threats of punishment (demotion). A sexual assault is a perpetrator’s sexual touching against a soldier’s will or consent. The sexual activity involved can include many different experiences including unwanted touching, grabbing, oral sex, anal sex, sexual penetration with an object, and/or sexual intercourse. People tend to think that only women experience sexual trauma, however, this is not the case. In 1995 the Department of Defense conducted a large study of sexual victimization among active duty populations and found rates of sexual harassment to be 78% among women and 38% among men over a one-year period. Rates of attempted or completed sexual assault were 6% for women and 1% for men. Rates of military sexual trauma among veteran users of VA healthcare appear to be even higher than in general military populations. In one study, 23% of female users of VA healthcare reported experiencing at least one sexual assault while in the military.

Special Rules for Adjudicating PTSD Claims Based Upon MST 

Normally, PTSD claims require the veteran to submit contemporaneous documentation (usually service records) of an alleged in-service stressful event. However, for PTSD claims based upon military sexual trauma, the VA has relaxed the requirements. The VA’s regulation spells this out:

If a posttraumatic stress disorder claim is based on in-service personal assault, evidence from sources other than the veteran's service records may corroborate the veteran's account of the stressor incident. Examples of such evidence include, but are not limited to: records from law enforcement authorities, rape crisis centers, mental health counseling centers, hospitals, or physicians; pregnancy tests or tests for sexually transmitted diseases; and statements from family members, roommates, fellow service members, or clergy. Evidence of behavior changes following the claimed assault is one type of relevant evidence that may be found in these sources. Examples of behavior changes that may constitute credible evidence of the stressor include, but are not limited to: a request for a transfer to another military duty assignment; deterioration in work performance; substance abuse; episodes of depression, panic attacks, or anxiety without an identifiable cause; or unexplained economic or social behavior changes. VA will not deny a posttraumatic stress disorder claim that is based on in-service personal assault without first advising the claimant that evidence from sources other than the veteran's service records or evidence of behavior changes may constitute credible supporting evidence of the stressor and allowing him or her the opportunity to furnish this type of evidence or advise VA of potential sources of such evidence. VA may submit any evidence that it receives to an appropriate medical or mental health professional for an opinion as to whether it indicates that a personal assault occurred.


"Were you happy with the final result in your case? "Very much so. "

C. W. Wellman | Bronson, Texas
Awarded $184,235

"I was treated very fairly and was satisfied with the result. "

Charles R. Van Every | Crystal River, Florida
Awarded $221,519

"Good communication, professional, caring, available, prompt, knowledgable, timely submissions. I was awarded 100% service-connected in a difficult area...Agent Orange and Parkinson's Disease. "

Charles Smith | Oregon City, OR
Awarded $64,568

"I tried other representatives for over ten years. They never seemed to try to see my point of view, much less the truth. Mark Lippman's firm went to extremes to find the truth--they were very diligent in representing me in Court I would whole-heartedly recommend that anyone with a difficult case go to Mark Lippman. "

Chester Stricklin | Tulsa, Oklahoma
Awarded $273,069

"I believe Mr. Lippman was entitled to more compensation than he received. He treated me more than fair. He listened to me. When you're hurting and tired of fighting the system, that means a lot. Mark performed admirably, quickly and professionally. I am more than happy with the final result. "

Danny Ridgeway | Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Awarded $158,738

"I felt that the Veteran's Law Group took the time and gathered the needed info to support my case. They never pushed me and my case off to the side. They pushed for what was right and entitled to me for my service to this country. They were willing to listen to me and then do the needed research to support my case. They never made me feel that I was wasting mine or their time. "

Dion Pendergast | Victoria, VA
Awarded $91,577

"More than happy with final result because of your dedication and honesty. Absolutely treated me fairly and compassionately. "

Falco Scuilli | Pittsburgh, PA
Awarded $363,503

"I was happy with Mr. Lippman's representation of my case. His firm accomplished what I thought hopeless-I received my compensation. "

Johnny King | Johnson City, Texas
Awarded $537,367

"I was extremely happy with the Veterans Law Group and the manner in which they handled my case. There is no doubt in my mind that had anyone other than Mark Lippman litigated my case I would not have received the back benefits I received. Thanks to Mr. Lippman and the Veterans Law Group my life has changed. You cannot go wrong with Attorney Mark Lippman or anyone associated with his Veterans Law Group. "

Joseph J. Plant | Sparks, Nevada
Awarded $227,000

"Mark Lippman helped me with a 10 year appeal and within a year and a half I received back pay of over $100,000. I would never have reached a settlement without Mark Lippman's help. The VA kept me in limbo for years. Mr. Lippman's knowledge of VA procedures made them accountable. I am now receiving 100% pension for my health condition resulting from the Viet Nam War. "

Michael Gilmore | San Diego, California
Awarded $103,000

"Mark Lippman let me know all the information I needed to prepare well in advance. He even covered some early expenses for the case from his own sources. Excellent lawyer and the case was settled to my satisfaction. I am very thankful to Mark Lippman and his staff for representing me in this caring, precise and realistic manner. "

Michael Steele | Bosco, North Carolina
Awarded $226,500

"Mark Lippman and I have worked together on cases before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims involving vision problems for several years. I have been a Service Officer for the Blinded Veterans Association for over 16 years. Mr. Lippman settled a claim I referred to him for over $500,000 -- the largest settlement I have ever known -- and he is currently seeking a Court decision in a case involving the unusual definition of 'blindness' used by the VA. "

Peter Link | Veterans Service Officer, Blinded Veterans

"Mr. Lippman took on my case in 1991. Stuck in there until he was satisfied with the final decision which was 100% TDIU. Thank you Mr. Lippman. Will surely recommend you to other people. Law firm always done what they say they would do. I was very satisfied with the final results of my case. "

Terry Smith | Gates, NC
Awarded $478,901.00

"I am very satisfied with your firm's representation regarding my claim against the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The partial settlement I have received has made me feel as though I am finally coming to a closure to a very important part of my life. Thanks to Attorney Mark Lippman for handling my case.
Mr. Lippman & the Veteran's Law Group have been professional and helpful through this whole long process. Could not be any happier. The moral victory was equally as important as the financial victory. For 60+ years the VA had denied my condition was related to service. "

Thomas P. Chotta | Melbourne Beach, Florida
Awarded $152,839 and then $159,236

"By myself, I would not have survived this, had it not been for Counselor Lippman. We started with nothing, only my story--to the result of winning a V.A. claim. I would recommend attorney Mark Lippman to anyone. "

Vernon Kepner | Mt. Sterling, Kentucky
Awarded $216,119

"I have been trying to receive compensation since the early 70's from the V.A. for service connected disabilities. I believe without Mark Lippman's help I would still be trying to obtain was due me. I sincerely thank you, Mark and your Staff. "

William Iversen | Mikana, Wisconsin
Awarded $145,224.16
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The Veterans Law Group is located just outside of San Diego, California, but we represent veterans in every state.  Please call us or contact us via this website if you'd like to setup a confidential, complimentary consultation.  Thank you.