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New VA rules help vets with PTSD

Posted July 13, 2010

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— Army veteran Arthur Laselle served two year-long tours in Vietnam. Now 65 years old, he said the memories are never far away.

“You go to bed at night, and you still hear the rumble. You still hear the screaming, the hollering and stuff,” he said.

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist diagnosed Laselle, of Fayetteville, with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. He said his PTSD has involved nightmares and flashbacks.

For the past 13 years, Laselle has applied for PTSD benefits through the VA, mainly in the form of monthly payments.

Each time he has applied, Laselle said he gets pressed for details, including the dates the incidents took place, what unit he was serving in and a detailed account of his combat.

“They want you to keep opening back up, keeping pouring salt into your wounds all the time, and you can’t fulfill it,” he said.

Army veteran Arthur Laselle New VA rules help vets with PTSD

Then, he said the VA would exhaustively cross-check his account of what happened.

“They just tried to keep bringing it up, and there’s no way in heck I can remember dates that actions happened,” he said.

He eventually grew frustrated trying to provide details to the agency.

“Some of the stuff that’s happened, nobody knows what happened except for the individual (himself),” he said.

Sharon Sanders, director of Cumberland County Veterans Services, said she knows about 100 veterans who were denied PTSD benefits because traumatic events could not be verified.

“You go back 42 years and try to remember something that happened on a particular day when you were in the thick of combat,” Sanders said.

Sanders said she has seen veterans break down in her office. “I’ve had tears. I’ve had veterans walk out of here refusing to deal with the VA anymore, saying, ‘I’m not going to do it if that’s what they want,’” she said.

But new rules announced by the VA on Monday mean veterans like Lasalle won’t have to prove what caused their PTSD. Instead, they would have to show that the conditions surrounding the time and place of their service could have contributed to their illness.

The new rules also consider "perceived threats" as stress-causing events, such as a truck driver living in constant fear of a roadside bomb.

The new rules will apply not only to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but also those who served in previous conflicts.

Laselle said he is relieved by the new rules, but added, “I also feel pain because of having to go through all this hassle continuously all these years.”

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  • SingleLensReflex.SLR Jul 16, 2010

    there are people who would abuse the system in any group, soldiers are not immune. Some percentage of ex-military will file for everything they can get and learn the symptoms as they go to get a free ride. Same as some percentage of gen pop will as well. I do think as country's economic stress grows, more people join that sad group out of general fear.

  • IAMAmerican Jul 14, 2010

    I have mixed feelings about this. I understand that PTSD is a real and serious thing - I have many friends that suffer, some worse than others. I think that currently it is too difficult for veterans to get help for this disorder.

    However, with these new rules, I think it makes it way too easy to abuse the system, and get money for nothing. And that's my (taxpayer) money - so I'm not cool with that either.

    I think there is a better way to do it so that everyone's happy (or most everyone), I'm just not sure exactly what that is.
    oops7483

    People that haven't done a thing for their country abuse the system, free medical treatment, checks, foodstamp housing etc, most are called deadbeats. Why would you say things about Vets abusing the system? I don't think any one could fake mental disorders from seeing the horrors of war. Many of my Vietnam Vet friends are still suffering and were so mistreated when they returned. It's so nice to see Vets getting more help now days and they should

  • GulfWarVet Jul 13, 2010

    It has been much easier for the government to deny benefits to worthy soldiers/veterans for years. This change in rules makes it much more possible for those who need help to actually get it.

    The comment was made below of worries about abuse of the system. But the truth is this: if an unscrupulous individual wants to cheat the system to get benefits, no matter what, they will follow the rules and get their ducks in a row and receive those benefits.

    However, in the grand scheme of things, the overall money being spent on veteran care will go down, because those who need it will get it, and be much better poised to be repatriated and recover sooner. Initial costs will be high with a surge of applicants, and the true bottleneck is that the VA lacks the quantity of quality staff to properly handle PTSD claims. This is known. I only hope that Shinseki moves quickly to correct this.

  • mamabearprotectinghercub Jul 13, 2010

    PTSD is a very serious thing. They should have been getting help with this. I am so mad that they treat them like this.

    If you think that it can be abused then they should have to go through test, they should also be seeing a psychiatrist.

  • grasshopperrtp2 Jul 13, 2010

    Our boys should receive ANY and ALL the help the need for ANY reason.They put their life on the line to keep us free.Do you want to chase terrorist over there or here on our soil?This is a no brainer.

  • oops7483 Jul 13, 2010

    I have mixed feelings about this. I understand that PTSD is a real and serious thing - I have many friends that suffer, some worse than others. I think that currently it is too difficult for veterans to get help for this disorder.

    However, with these new rules, I think it makes it way too easy to abuse the system, and get money for nothing. And that's my (taxpayer) money - so I'm not cool with that either.

    I think there is a better way to do it so that everyone's happy (or most everyone), I'm just not sure exactly what that is.

  • TomLynda Jul 13, 2010

    I think this is way overdue. My son-in-law was sent back suffering from PTSD during his fourth tour in Iraq. It took him over 2 years to get any help from VA, what with all the red tape and such. And his could be readily verified.

    He is not faking it either. I've seen him break down at the mere mention of certain things, or when fireworks go off. Any number of things will trigger it. He is striving to overcome it, but he is classified 85% disabled.

    I'm a Vietnam Vet, and I've know many who suffered through a lot. My first cousin finally commited sucide it go so bad.