WASHINGTON — The government is making it easier for combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder to receive disability benefits.
The Veterans Affairs Department plans to announce Monday it will no longer require veterans to prove what might have triggered their illness. Instead, they would have to show that they served in combat in a job that could have contributed to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Veterans advocates and some lawmakers have argued that it sometimes could be impossible for a veteran to find records of a firefight or bomb blast. They also have contended that the old rule ignored other causes of the disorder, such as fearing a traumatic event even if it doesn’t occur. That could discriminate against female troops prohibited from serving on front lines and against other service members who don’t experience combat directly.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the change in policy “long overdue.” Last year, Schumer and Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., proposed legislation similar to the new rule.
“It is so unfair to put the burden of proof on the brave men and women who have already put themselves in harm’s way,” Schumer said Thursday. “These guidelines rectify that and should bring more veterans who’ve served their country the help they need.”
A study last year by the RAND Corp. think tank estimated that nearly 20 percent of returning veterans, or 300,000, have symptoms of PTSD or major depression.
The change in regulations was first reported by The New York Times.