What are common PTSD triggers for veterans?
Published May 5, 2023
Are you a veteran triggered into having nightmares, flashbacks, overly negative thoughts, decreased interest in activities, irritability or aggression, risky or destructive behavior, hypervigilance, feeling isolated, heightened startle reaction, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping? You aren’t crazy and you aren’t alone. It is completely normal for someone who has gone through trauma to develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Whether you are a veteran or a friend or family member of a veteran who may have PTSD, this article explores some of the common triggers that set off PTSD symptoms, and outline some resources for emergency treatment and disability compensation. Residual effects of service-related trauma such as PTSD can be the basis for filing a VA psychiatric disability claim and, if that is not initially successful, a VA disability appeals process can be utilized.
If you have already been denied for VA disability compensation, you can get a free review of that decision.
Common PTSD triggers
A PTSD “trigger” is anything that reminds you of your traumatic experience (consciously or subconsciously), causing an intense physical or psychological reaction. Triggers can be sounds, sights, smells or other sensations that your body or your mind reacts to with exaggerated response in comparison to your pre-traumatic state.
Your triggers are going to be specific to you, but common reported triggers with others who have PTSD include things such as:
- Movies or TV shows depicting trauma or war
- Situations involving disputes or anger
- Crowded events or areas, including social gatherings, games or concerts
- Loud noises, such as fireworks, dishes falling on the floor, etc
- Unexpected or unwanted touch, even from friends or family
Veterans have also reported being triggered by fear of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), basically being triggered by seemingly benign objects like cell phones and trash bags because in a combat setting, those could be explosive devices.
PTSD triggers may not be explicitly recognized or acknowledged by the person suffering them; sometimes it’s the friends, family, and colleagues who notice. The veteran being triggered often, out of necessity, tries to develop coping mechanisms to deal with being triggered. This may involve avoidance behaviors (opting out of events with large crowds, avoiding places where known triggers are likely to exist) and sometimes self-medicating with heavy drinking, drug use, or other destructive lifestyle choices.
What steps can you take when you suspect you have PTSD?
If you or your loved one are struggling with PTSD symptoms, don’t wait for a formal diagnosis to seek out treatment. Symptoms can get more serious over time. Here are some steps you can and should take.
First, if you or your loved one are in crisis mode – in danger of harming themselves or others – get help immediately. You can call 911 or you can reach the VA’s Veteran Crisis Line by dialing 988 then pressing 1. This is available 24/7, confidential, and the veteran doesn’t need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect.
Beginning in January 2023, veterans in suicidal crisis can go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for free emergency health care at no cost. As with the crisis line, veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit either, and it can include some inpatient or crisis residential care.
For non-crisis situations, there are other resources available. You can call the VA Health Benefits Service Center toll free at 1-877-222-VETS or explore My HealtheVet, which provides veterans help with VA health care information, services, and locations. Other veteran can connect you with resources for doctors, therapists, support groups, or other types of help. PTSD treatments are available and research is ongoing for even more and better help for veterans with PTSD.
For the longer-term, you should also file a claim for tax-free VA disability compensation benefits that are available to veterans with service-connected PTSD, whether from combat or non-combat trauma. Getting this benefits can often be a lifeline to mitigate the financial impact of PTSD symptoms and allow the veteran to focus more time on healing.
Establishing a service connection for your PTSD can have some additional utility. If your service-connected PTSD has contributed to involvement in the criminal justice system (as happens sometimes), VA disability benefit eligibility can be part of a rehabilitation process that could avoid jail or a criminal conviction entirely.
What steps can you take to make sure that PTSD treatment is paid for by VA Disability?
As detailed above, veterans in suicidal crisis can access free emergency health care at no cost from the VA or any non-VA health care facility. For other medical issues, veterans who served on active duty may be eligible for VA healthcare. Check out eligibility requirements here.
Enhanced eligibility status (a higher priority group for receiving benefits) with the VA is more likely if you receive VA disability benefits. Filing a VA disability benefits claim can be an important process to getting your PTSD treatment paid for by the VA.
Can you adjust your VA disability claim if your PTSD gets worse?
Yes. As with all service-connected conditions, if your PTSD symptoms get worse after filing your initial claim, you can ask for your disability rating to be increased. If you make this request within one year after your rating decision is issued, you can do this through an appeal process, or you can later file a claim for increased disability compensation.
What happens if your PTSD claim is denied? Or if the rating is lower than expected?
If your initial VA disability claim for PTSD is denied, you have the ability to appeal and try to get it granted. You have one year from the date of your ratings decision to file an appeal.
If your disability rating is lower than you believe is corrected based on your condition, you also have a right to file an appeal within one year. There is no average VA rating for PTSD; claims are rated from 0% to 100% based upon predetermined criteria that focus on your symptoms and how they affect your personal life and job. See the PTSD ratings sheet here.
If your VA disability benefits claim is denied or underrated, or you disagree with the effective date (start date) of the claim, these are all reasons to check out your options for filing an appeal. This is the point where retaining an experienced VA disability law firm may enhance the likelihood of a successful appeal. VA claim appeals require showing the VA where it made a mistake, and lining up the evidence in a way to make it easy for the VA to agree with you.
What should you look for in a good VA claim attorney?
Finding a VA disability attorney with the proper credentials and experience is important. To begin with, they should be accredited by the VA (you can check status here). There are many people and companies who claim to be able to assist veterans, but a careful look shows that they aren’t accredited to actually advocate for you with the VA. Besides that basic requirement, you should also look for a firm experienced in handling VA disability benefit appeals. You have only handled one claim; they have handled thousands and bring that expertise to the table in framing the best pathway for you.
Prior results for other clients obviously cannot be guaranteed in your case – each VA disability claim has its own quirks – but look for a law firm that has a plan for how to obtain a successful outcome for the particular challenges your case has.
Keep in mind that most VA disability claim attorneys will take your claim on a contingency basis, only getting paid if and when you get paid. Pay attention to the details, however, and make sure you understand what and how they get paid and what other costs you may have to pay upfront or later. For example, will your law firm cover the costs of an independent medical exam (IME) if needed?
A good VA claim attorney will be determined and methodical, walking you through the complexities of VA disability claim appeals to, hopefully, a good resolution.
Has your PTSD disability claim been denied or underrated by the VA? Would you like a free review of your decision to see if the Veterans Law Group can help you? Contact us now.