VA Accrued Benefits for PTSD

PTSD Claims and Accrued Benefits for Dependents

I have a letter I want to share regarding mental disabilities and the timing of VA claims. After the letter, I’ll respond and tell you how those things can interact with each other. I’ll specifically discuss how accrued benefits can be obtained for dependents of Veterans, and what you need to know before filing a claim.

Dear VA Guy,

The father of my daughter was a US Marine and he served from 2006 to 2010. My daughter was born in March prior to her father’s death. The father suffered from PTSD and filed a claim for service-connected PTSD, but died prior to receiving any award. My daughter’s father went for a PTSD exam and the VA diagnosed him with ADHD, not PTSD. I’m doing the best I can to raise my daughter alone. On behalf of my daughter, I applied for accrued benefits from the VA but they denied me. Can you help?

What Are Accrued Benefits?

Accrued benefits are funds to which a payee is entitled to receiving at his or her death. In this instance, the daughter of the Veteran may be entitled to accrued benefits based on an existing VA disability rating or based upon evidence in the VA files at the time of death. Accrued benefits may be paid to a spouse, children, or the Veterans dependent parents.

The timing of an accrued benefits application is crucial. An application for accrued benefits must be filed within one year of the death of the Veteran. A claim for death pension, disability, or DIC is deemed to include a claim for any accrued benefits. If you have a compensation claim that has been completed, just not rewarded, accrued benefits can go to your family if they file for those within a year of your death.

Since the mother in this case was the custodian of the Veteran surviving child, she was entitled to file a claim on behalf of her daughter. The question is whether she filed the claim for accrued benefits within a year of the Veterans death. This is where we get into those crucial timing issues. You only have one year and there are no exceptions.

Verifying PTSD for VA Claims

Assuming the application for accrued benefits was filed within one year of the Veterans passing, what’s the next step here? We first need to ensure that there was evidence of a service-connected disability for this Veteran. Then we have to determine whether that service-connected disability caused his death in some way.

We would first want to look at the death certificate and see what it says as far as the case of death. If the immediate cause of death was a car accident, it’s going to be tough to get accrued benefits since that was an accident and not likely due to any service-connected injury or disability. The death has to be connected to whatever claim you’re making with the VA.

Service connection must already be established at the time of death. Service connection, aka “nexus,” for PTSD requires medical evidence diagnosing the condition. There must be a verified diagnosis of PTSD and a connection must be established between that diagnosis and the Veterans service. You must have credible supporting evidence of a stressor during service that caused the PTSD. You must clearly state what was witnessed or experienced during service to cause this traumatic stress.

When a claim is submitted, the VA will look at the Veterans medical records to see if a medical diagnosis for PTSD examination is in the records. In this case, it appears that a VA psychologist did perform a screening and issued a diagnosis of ADHD instead of PTSD. That carries a lot of weight because that examiner would have considered everything that was in the Veterans file.

If there is no evidence for PTSD or a medical diagnosis, you’re not going to be able to get accrued benefits for it. Additionally, there is no evidence that a service-connected disability or injury caused the Veterans death. This is likely why the claim was denied. Situations like this are very unfortunate, but this is why we try to educate Veterans and their spouses as much as possible. Having that information will hopefully allow you to make informed decisions to get claims approved before something tragic happens.

Contact Us So We Can Help!

If you need assistance with VA benefits for Veterans, spouses of Veterans, or children of Veterans, complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. If you’d like to see this blog in video format, you can watch it below. Please be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel and click the bell notification button so that you’re notified each time we publish a new video.