Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

two military helmets military post-traumatic stress disorderMilitary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) has become a common topic of conversation among veterans and families, but too often remains hidden from public view and is widely misunderstood.

Veterans who suffer from PTSD generally re-experience a traumatic event, often life-endangering, which occurred during combat or in a combat-like setting while deployed. PTSD is not limited to combat exposure, and veterans who witness or experience any traumatic event can develop PTSD.

For a veteran suffering from PTSD, time may be of the essence. Without treatment, the condition can worsen and cause the veteran to have trouble maintaining gainful employment, interacting with family members and loved ones, and even cause them to pursue potentially dangerous avenues of “self-medication”.

Veterans suffering from PTSD may be entitled to VA Disability benefits to help pursue treatment and work towards recovery.

Our SC Veterans’ Advocates Team is made up of military veterans themselves, who understand the unique stress of military life, and also the way that many veterans may have felt pressure not to discuss or seek treatment for their PTSD in the past.

PTSD is very real, and it is far more common than many think. Just fill out the form below to request your FREE consultation with our SC Vet Advocates, or keep reading to learn more about Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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Table of Contents

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The Basics: PTSD as a Result of Military Service

Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is, unfortunately, not uncommon. While overall averages vary widely depending on time of service and terms of deployment, Veterans Affairs has estimated the numbers at anything between 10% – 15% of veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD, with numbers as high as 30% in some cases for those who served in Vietnam.

PTSD results most often after a servicemember experiences a traumatic event. A training accident involving serious injury or death, physical assaults, motor vehicle accidents, military sexual trauma, handling casualties or dead bodies, or coming under active fire—all of these are common causes of PTSD in military veterans.

Many military servicemembers assume that the only “real” PTSD that a veteran can file a VA Disability claim for must occur under heavy combat conditions, but this simply isn’t true. The traumatic event that caused PTSD did not have to occur during combat, or even while on duty, so long as it was in the line of duty.

Review these common symptoms of Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Symptoms of PTSD include, but are not limited to:

  • Recurring nightmares or intrusive memories of the event
  • Loss of sleep
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • A feeling of emotional disconnection or “numbness”
  • Anger or irritability
  • Feeling constantly “on guard,” nervous, or tense
  • Increasing tension and anger with loved ones
  • Finding yourself avoiding places that remind you of the traumatic event
  • The use of alcohol or other illicit substances in an attempt to “self-medicate”
  • Isolation from others
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others

Treatments like cognitive processing therapy, certain prescribed medications, and a specific type of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (or EMDR) have all shown success in helping veterans to recover from debilitating PTSD.

PTSD can make maintaining gainful employment difficult or impossible, and lead to problems relating to loved ones. If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD as a result of military service, you deserve the benefits to which you are entitled due to your service to help you seek treatment and find a path to recovery.

To go more in-depth into the basics of PTSD, we have a three-part series, starting here, on our blog.

Click the button below to jump back up to the consultation form, or read on to learn more about how PTSD affects other mental injuries as a result of military service, military sexual trauma and PTSD, and filing a VA Disability claim for PTSD.

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PTSD and Other Mental Injuries

For many veterans with PTSD, treatment for the disorder ends up delayed because their symptoms are mistaken for those of other, different mental illnesses and injuries.

Depression, anxiety, manic-depression, and bipolar disorder… any of these can be caused or exacerbated by PTSD. Physical disabilities can also be aggravated by PTSD, especially if the affected veteran avoids seeking treatment.

Because substance abuse, such as drinking or using illicit drugs, is often used as a form of “self-medication” to seemingly mask symptoms of PTSD and mental injuries, it’s not uncommon for veterans to be diagnosed with alcoholism, only to discover the root of their problems with substance abuse lie much deeper and are a result of their attempt to manage untreated PTSD.

Veterans who suspect that they may be suffering from Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental health issues should see either a VA-provided C&P or an independent doctor for a mental health evaluation as soon as possible.

You can read more about the interaction of PTSD, mental injuries, and substance abuse here on our blog: PTSD & the VA Process, Part 2.

Click the button below to jump back up to the form, or read on to learn more about PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, what to do if your loved one has PTSD, and filing a VA Disability Claim for PTSD as a result of military service.

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PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury after military service and military PTSD are often mistaken for each other, due to incredibly similar symptoms. You’ve probably read about Traumatic Brain Injury as it applies to professional football players, as the NFL has recently had to grapple with the long-term effects of multiple concussions and serious head injuries on its former and current athletes.

The main causes of TBI in veterans serving in our most recent conflicts overseas — IEDs and other explosions, vehicle wrecks, and gunshot wounds — involve types of trauma that can also easily lead to a veteran developing symptoms of PTSD. As traumatic brain injuries can cause the same issues with staying focused, maintaining employment, irritability, depression, and problems with substance abuse that PTSD does, many veterans end up misdiagnosed with (and treated for) traumatic brain injuries when what they truly need is treatment for PTSD.

These misdiagnoses have led to serious issues with ensuring military veterans and those currently serving are able to even reach the right doctor to receive the correct treatment.

How traumatic brain injury affects daily life
Image via hopeforthewarriors.org

While TBI and PTSD are similar, there are clear and essential differences when it comes to the overall timeline of events and which treatments are effective. As TBI is a physical trauma or series of traumas to the head and brain, therapeutic treatments for Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will do little but perhaps mask some symptoms and won’t help to stem the potential continue damage over time. PTSD, which involves a more emotional and mental trauma, will not be alleviated by treatment for TBI and the veteran may find their mental injuries worsening over time rather than improving.

To help bring down the numbers of misdiagnosis, Veterans Affairs is working hard to develop new research that should help to make it easier to receive the correct diagnosis in the future.

Click the button below to jump back up to the form, or keep reading to learn more about non-combat PTSD, filing a VA Disability claim for PTSD, and more.

For more information on traumatic brain injury, its symptoms, and what options you might have if you or a loved one is suffering as a result of traumatic brain injury, click the blog button below.

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Non-Combat PTSD

One of the most commonly asked questions we receive is also one that often takes a veteran quite a bit of courage to ask: “Can I have PTSD if I was never in combat?”

Yes, you absolutely can develop PTSD without ever seeing active combat.

PTSD develops as a result of exposure to traumatic events, and as we saw earlier when going over the basics of PTSD, there is a lot of variation to what types of trauma linger in this way.

military worker helping after the 2010 earthquake in HaitiAfter the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, more than 15,000 American military servicemembers were sent to help with the cleanup and recovery efforts. Soldiers who returned after serving as part of Operation Unified Response had, in many cases, been exposed to potentially traumatic events that could lead them to develop PTSD, even though combat was never part of their duties there.

Physical assaults, military sexual trauma, non-combat accidents, and the deaths or suicides of fellow soldiers are all non-combat situations that can lead a veteran to develop Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Did you find what you needed to know? Click the first button below to jump back up to fill out the form and request your FREE VA Disability consultation. Click the blog button below to read more on non-combat PTSD and what signs and symptoms to watch for. Or keep reading to learn about military sexual trauma and PTSD, what to do if your loved one is a veteran with PTSD, and more.

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Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder after military service can be caused by many things: exposure to violent events, grievous injury, or even the day-to-day realities of a uniquely stressful life. One type of PTSD that is far too rarely discussed? PTSD as a result of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

Military Sexual Trauma is far more than direct sexual assault; as defined by Veterans Affairs, military sexual trauma includes sexual assault and also repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurs while the veteran in question was a member of the military.

Any sexual activity that is against one’s will, whether through force, coercion, or other methods, counts as military sexual trauma.

Being subjected to sexual trauma while serving in the military remains distressingly common among both male and female veterans. While some news organizations initially reported drops in numbers of incidents reported since 2012, there is deep concern among the highest levels of the military that it’s the reported amount of incidents that are dropping, not the number of incidents themselves.

Undergoing military sexual trauma has a similar effect on the body and physical brain as time spent in a direct combat situation; the individual is subjected to intense stress, along with physical and mental injuries, that may lead to PTSD and begin to affect or even destroy the veteran’s ability to function in everyday life.

Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of MST often discover they are no longer able to continue at their current job, especially if still employed by the military or in a military setting. Disassociation is a common response under even normal daily stress, along with irritability, problems with anger management, or even seeking to self-medicate and find comfort in alcohol or through recreational drug use.

If you have suffered military sexual trauma, you are not alone. Your experiences matter, and the trauma you suffered is real. Your PTSD is real, and you deserve the treatment you need to work towards recovery.

Seeking to file a VA Disability claim due to MST-related PTSD can be complex and stressful for a veteran simply trying to gain access to VA Disability benefits they may be entitled to.

It’s important to work with a legal representative to ensure that your rights are protected while you gain access to benefits and treatment to begin your path to recovery.

Learn more about the documentation you’ll want to have on hand and what you can expect from the initial VA Disability claim process by clicking the blog button below.

Click the form button below to request your free VA Disability consultation, or read on to learn more about filing a VA Disability claim for PSTD.

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Filing a VA Disability Claim for PTSD

What You Need, What You Need to Know

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has always been a potential result of time spent in military service. After World War I, many returning soldiers were called “shellshocked,” a polite term that largely covered the symptoms that today we would recognize as being PTSD.

Lawyer in a law office talking to a clientThose filing a VA Disability claim for PTSD may be worried about how to “prove” a disorder that may feel difficult to provide concrete evidence of. Don’t worry. When you work with a legal representative who has experience in VA claims for PTSD, you will be working with a partner who has been down this road before.

First, you’ll submit all the evidence you have when you initially file your claim, establishing service-connection right from the start. Report any CIB, Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, or decoration for Valor (Bronze Star w/V, Silver Star, or others), or for Vietnam veterans, use the information off your DD-214 to list your tours.

You’ll be asked to describe the stressors that lead to your Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it’s important to emphasize specifics. It may be difficult to think or speak about the traumatic event, but the more information you provide the VA from the outset, the more able they will be to come to an accurate conclusion as to your PTSD’s service-connection.

Be sure to include any and all medical records that relate to the traumatic event, injuries sustained if any, or resulting PTSD.

If your claim is approved and you are able to move forward with gaining access to essential benefits to help you seek treatment, wonderful!

If you feel your rating is too low, or you are denied outright and you want to file an appeal, there are a few important steps you’ll need to take, which we’ve outlined in the third part of our series on the basics of VA Disability claims for PTSD.

Click below to jump back up to the form to request your free VA Disability consultation today.

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When You’re Worried About a Loved One With PTSD

In many cases, it is not the veteran themselves who initially acknowledges the need for help, but their spouse, children, family members, or friends who become worried after recognizing the signs and symptoms of PTSD in their loved one.

PTSD may not only be disabling to the affected veteran, but also cause their relationships with everyone in their lives to suffer as well. For those searching for what to do when a loved one is a military veteran with PTSD, please know one important fact first:

It’s okay that you’re scared. It’s perfectly understandable, normal, and acceptable to feel worried, frustrated, and angry when dealing with the effects of Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on a formerly happy home.

A returning servicemember with PTSD may become emotionally distant or irrationally angry, withdraw physically and/or emotionally from those they love, isolate themselves, or self-medicate through drug or alcohol use.

When you’re searching for how to help a loved one suffering from PTSD, we have a blog that might give you a few ideas on how to get started.

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Filing a VA Disability Claim for PTSD in Columbia, SC?

We’re Here to Help.

The SC Veterans’ Advocates Team at Bluestein Attorneys is made up of former servicemembers who understand the unique pressures and stress that come with military life. Our VA Disability team considers it an honor to help veterans fight for the benefits their personal sacrifice and service to the country has entitled them to, and we’re ready to fight by your side to help you seek the treatment for Military Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder you need in order to find your path to recovery.

Every military life is unique. Every experience of PTSD as a result of military service is different. Every veteran deserves the care and treatment they need, when they need it.

To get started filing your VA Disability claim for PTSD, or to file an appeal after a denial or low disability rating, give us a call at (877) 524-4675 or just click the button below to jump back up to the consultation request form.

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