In a previous blog, we’ve discussed obtaining PTSD disability benefits through the VA. This benefit is called Disability Indemnity Compensation or DIC. Obtaining DIC benefits for PTSD can be tricky, but it is especially tricky if you were involved in Special Operations during your military service. Below we’ll provide some examples and tips for obtaining PTSD disability benefits for special operations service members.
Let’s start with the three basic qualification rules for PTSD disability benefits. There are some variations and exceptions to these, but the three basic qualifications are:
#1 You need some basic medical evidence that you suffer from PTSD. This would include documentation from a psychologist or medical professional who is qualified to diagnose PTSD.
#2 There has to be a link between your PTSD and your military service. If you have PTSD that developed while in service, that’s an easy one. But what if your PTSD developed after your service? That can be more difficult to prove.
#3 You need credible supporting evidence of the stressors you experienced that caused your PTSD.
Stressor Statements for PTSD Disability Benefits
With regards to qualification #3, we’re talking about something called a “stressor statement.” This statement provides documentation that you experienced stressful or traumatic events that led to your PTSD. But if you were involved in special operations, the details of your military service are likely classified. So how do we develop a stressor statement in this case?
Let’s first define a “stressor.” A stressor is a very traumatic event where you exposed to death or threatened death, serious bodily injury, or something along those lines. There are different ways in which you could have experienced that stressor.
#1 You experienced the stressor yourself.
#2 You witnessed someone in a stressful situation.
#3 You learned of a traumatic event.
Examples of Stressors or Traumatic Events
To clarify things further, let’s discuss some examples of stressful or traumatic events that have been experienced by some of our clients here at Davidson Law Firm. We’ve helped many Veterans over the years, many of them with PTSD disability benefits. Our heart is with those Veterans who have experienced these traumatic events and are dealing with PTSD as a result.
You may have heard of the “Highway of Death” during the Gulf War in Iraq. This highway was where the Iraqi soldiers were being pushed from Kuwait, causing a huge bottleneck of traffic along the road. When that bottleneck occurred, US Military Forces initiated a series of air and ground attacks from the front and back of the traffic jam.
Our client wasn’t there during the actual bombing, but he was there during the aftermath. He witnessed all the charred bodies, the stench, the flies — all those things. It wasn’t his MOS (military occupational speciality) to bury the bodies, but he was a heavy equipment operator in the area. As a result, he was tasked with digging the trenches and bulldozing the vehicles and bodies into all of those trenches. You can imagine how that would be a very traumatic and stressful event.
Another client of ours was serving in Honduras of all places. He was not involved in any combat or post-combat situations, but still experienced a very traumatic event. His MOS was in transportation and his friend was changing a tire. Something went bad wrong while changing the tire and the tire actually decapitated his friend.
Going back to the Vietnam War, we had a client who was involved in the Battle of Duc Lap. Our client was stuck in the foxhole for the entire battle which lasted four or five days. He was in the foxhole with his dead brothers for the duration of the battle. For those four or five days, he experienced a plethora of fear in addition to dealing with the smell and stench of dead bodies.
Dealing with Classified Military Records
So those are some examples of stressors that a few of our clients have experienced. As you can see, you don’t necessarily have to have been in combat to experience a stressful event during military service — just like our client who was a transportation specialist in Honduras. He wasn’t in combat when his friend was decapitated, but he experienced a very traumatic event nonetheless.
So how do you prove these stressful events when you’re in Special Operations and your missions are all classified? Fortunately, the VA has provided us with a document called the Fast Letter that provides a way for us to corroborate your stressful event or stressor. If you’d like a copy of this letter, just send us an email to [email protected] and we’ll be glad to send it to you.
To further prove your stressor as a special operations member, we recommend not focusing on a single event but the entire experience. We want to focus on your emotions and the series of events that has led to your PTSD condition. Although you may not be able to provide your location on an exact date, you can provide approximate dates that we can give to the VA. This will go a long way to corroborating your story and obtaining PTSD disability benefits.
The VA will help us by researching those classified records, but we have to provide enough information so they know where to start. In addition to the Fast Letter and providing approximate dates, there are other ways to substantiate your stressor for PTSD disability benefits. If you don’t have any service records, we can use what are called “buddy statements.” We talked earlier about our client who was involved in the aftermath of the Highway of Death. In this case, we were able to obtain two “buddy statements” from fellow military members who experienced similar stressors.
Other ways to substantiate stressors would include newspaper articles, magazine articles, photographs — basically anything that shows that you were there during a stressful or traumatic event. Providing any documentation you have will greatly improve your chances of getting PTSD disability benefits through the VA.
We Can Help You Obtain PTSD Disability Benefits
Disability (DIC) benefits through the VA can be very complicated. It’s even more complicated when you add PTSD to the equation. But fortunately for you, this is one of our areas of expertise. We’ve helped many Veterans and spouses of Veterans over the years and it would be our pleasure to help you as well.
If you were in special operations and you need our help, don’t hesitate to give us a call (229-226-8183) or email us at [email protected]. You can also COMPLETE THIS FORM and we’ll contact you to schedule an appointment. 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.