Proving PTSD is Service Connected

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most common injuries faced by service members returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It goes without saying those experiencing PTSD should receive the support they need to help in their transition back and to deal with the mental health issues.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides veterans disability benefits to help those experiencing PTSD.

To receive service connected compensation for PTSD the service member must have a current PTSD diagnosis, show a service connected “stressor,” and show a connection between the stressor and PTSD.  All three of these components must generally be satisfied before the necessary support will be provided.


The PTSD diagnosis must be made by a “qualified medical professional.”  Not just anyone will qualify, as the professional usually must be a medical doctor or one with a PhD in psychology.  One common point of confusion is that the licensed mental health social workers cannot provide the diagnosis necessary to meet the VA requirements.  Even though these social workers are used by the VA to treat veterans, their assessments alone are insufficient

Service-related stressor

The VA will not provide support for PTSD that is not connected to something connected to military service.  Of course, the main component of proving that PTSD was connected to one’s service is the testimony of the veterans themselves, explaining their experience, symptoms since the event.

However, that testimony alone is insufficient to prove the existence of the service-related stressor.  Instead, credible, outside evidence must be produced to prove what happened.  That evidence can include many things, service records, newspaper reporting of events, reports from a unit, or corroborating testimony from another service member or witness.

There are some situations where outside evidence is not required. If the PTSD was diagnosed while in service then the requirement is waived.  Similarly, if the veteran can prove they were in combat or were a POW, then the outside verification is usually not required.

Connection between stressor & PTSD

The most confusing aspect of this process is likely showing a “nexus” between the diagnosis and the stressor.  This nexus cannot be deemed self-evident by the circumstances but must be identified by a doctor.

Essentially, the medical professional must report that the exact stressor, which was proven by the applicant, is connected to the mental health issue.  This is not always straight-forward.   Many veterans have multiple traumatic experiences.  However, the medical professionals must show that the exact stressor, which was proven by outside evidence, was the stressor connected to the PTSD.

Each of these three requirements must be shown for a veteran to qualify for VA benefits to help with the post traumatic stress disorder.  It is important for applicants not to assume that their claim will be accepted merely because they are showing PTSD symptoms and have traumatic service-related experiences.

This application process is a formal one, and there are no shortcuts.  It is often necessary to have help with this process to ensure the proper proof is provided to meet every requirement.  Failure to do so may result in denied or delayed benefits.

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