You need a verified in-service Stressor
Your stressor is the traumatic event you experienced during service that led to PTSD. It could be direct exposure, indirect exposure, or witnessing the event involving death, threatened death, or serious injury. Your stressor needs to be verified, or corroborated, meaning you have to prove that it actually happened. There are exceptions to this and special rules, such as if you were diagnosed with PTSD in-service, if your stressor involves fear of hostile military or terrorist activity, or if you were in combat. You will want to provide evidence to verify your stressor or know if your stressor fits into one of the exceptions.
Be aware of your Symptoms
Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories: 1. Intrusion, such as nightmares and flashbacks. 2. Avoidance, such as avoiding crowds, people, or places that are closely associated with the traumatic event. 3. Negative alterations in cognitions and mood, such as staying away from relationships and viewing the world as dangerous. 4. Hyperarousal, such as difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, always feeling alert, and being easily startled. These symptoms are what make up a diagnosis of PTSD. Your rating will be based on the effect that these symptoms have and the limitations they impose on your social and occupational functioning. If you are experiencing these symptoms go see a doctor and get a diagnosis.
Have a current Diagnosis
It is not enough to be experiencing the symptoms listed above. You need to have a diagnosis of PTSD. The diagnosis needs to be made by a qualified mental health practitioner, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. You need to be currently suffering from PTSD. The diagnosis must meet the VA’s specific criteria that can be found in 38 C.F.R. § 4.125 so it is important for the diagnosing doctor to fully describe why and how you meet the specific criteria for PTSD, according to the DSM-V.
You still need a Nexus
Even after you have verified your in-service stressor and you have a current diagnosis of PTSD, you still need to establish the link between your diagnosis and in-service stressor in order to establish service connection. This means providing evidence to show that “it is at least likely as not” that your diagnosis of PTSD is a result of your in-service stressor. This needs to be proven by medical evidence, such as an opinion from a qualified doctor. Another way to do that is records from a Vet Center, where they have licensed social workers that will document the connection between veterans’ stressor and their current diagnosis.
Don’t forget to use Buddy Statements
Buddy statements can be very helpful to your claim. Your buddy statements could be used to corroborate your stressor, where fellow veterans who served with you can describe what you experienced together in order to prove that it happened. You can also use buddy statements to show the severity of your PTSD. You can have family members and friends talk about a change in your behavior from before service to after service, or even have co-workers and employers talk about your behavior at work and how your symptoms affect your employment.
This resource list was put together by Veterans Advocates of Hill & Ponton, PA.