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The military is about to begin reviewing the status of thousands of veterans thanks to a court order regarding benefits granted to those veterans discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A class action lawsuit filed by combat veterans led to the order to review the records of recent vets discharged with PTSD to decide whether they were improperly denied benefits. A change in status could result in significant increases in those benefits received by the veterans and their families.
The original suit was brought by seven combat veterans who alleged the military illegally denied benefits to those discharged, at least in part, because of the disorder, during a six-year period ending Oct. 14, 2008. Notices soon will be sent out to about 4,300 veterans informing them they can "opt-in" to the suit and become part of the review. Some vets could receive an increase in benefits worth hundreds of dollars, based upon the review.
For example, the Washington Post reports that one of the vets party to the suit, former Marine Cpl. Tyler Einarson, of Moorhead, Minn., who was shot twice while serving in Afghanistan in 2005 and has PTSD, said Monday he expects his monthly government benefits to increase from about $117 to more than $1,100.
The key issue in the suit is the disability "rating" the military has given to vets with PTSD. Each of the original plaintiffs was given a rating of 10% or less. However, by law, the military must assign a disability rating of at least 50% to those discharged for PTSD, said Bart Stichman, co-executive director the National Veterans Legal Services Program. Since October of 2008, they have done just that.
According to the Post, the higher rating ensures that the veteran receives lifelong monthly disability payments, free health care for the veteran and the veteran's spouse, as well as health care for the veteran's minor children. These benefits can make an enormous difference in the lives of veterans affected with PTSD, who can find it difficult to cope with pressures of job and family because of their PTSD, which can sometimes include symptoms ranging from flashbacks, to anger problems, to depression and drinking problems. PTSD is an anxiety disorder most often brought on by a traumatizing event where the person was harmed or threatened.