Veterans trying to get a service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are soon going to find the process a little easier. A representative from the Department of Veterans Affairs told The American Legion's Veterans Planning and Coordinating Committee on Tuesday in Washington that the process for determining PTSD claims has been streamlined.
"We're in the process of trying to reduce the evidentiary standard for all veterans," said Brad Mayes, Director of VA's Compensation and Pension Service. "We proposed a rule change in the Federal Register in August 2009, and what we're trying to do is not be so restrictive on proving the stressor. If they were in fear of their life because they were on patrol, running convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're going to send that (claim) to VHA for an exam. If they say, ‘Yes, the veteran has PTSD. Yes, it's linked to that assertion that they were in fear for their life on a daily basis, and it's impacting their ability to function,' then we'll grant service connection. The idea here is to streamline the process. It's going to apply to all veterans."
Mayes said the new standard has been drafted and will have to be signed off by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki before going to the Office of Management and Budget for final review.
"It could take another 30 to 60 days, so we're probably a little ways away," Mayes said. "I want to get it out there. This is a good thing for veterans."
Representatives from the House and Senate Veterans Affairs' Committees also briefed the committee, along with Matt Flavin, the White House Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy.
"If you look at (the VA) budget, in the past two years we've increased discretionary spending 20 percent," Flavin said. "We're backing what we said publicly, which is we hold a sacred trust with the veteran community. We understand the system is going to be stressed, especially with the influx of those returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom. We committed 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, and we also have to take care of those on the back end. We understand what a great challenge that is, and that's why we really emphasize this relationship as one of the key relationships in making sure that we're doing right by our veterans."
The committee also received updates on VA construction projects and the Legion's efforts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.