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VA should revise its methods for evaluating and rating PTSD in veterans

has become very significant public health problem, particularly for veterans of current and past conflicts," said committee chair Nancy Andreasen, Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry and director, Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Center, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City. "Our review of the current methods for evaluating PTSD disability claims and determining compensation indicates that a comprehensive revision is needed."

Recent years have seen a spike in PTSD claims and a significant increase in disability payments for the condition. The number of cases jumped almost 80 percent between fiscal years 1999 and 2004, growing from 120,265 cases to 215,871. Payments for PTSD increased almost 150 percent over the same period, rising from $1.72 billion to $4.28 billion. The bulk of claims for PTSD compensation currently are coming from Vietnam War veterans who comprise the majority of living veterans, but claims also are being made by former service personnel of earlier conflicts as well as personnel who served in the first Gulf War and in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. There likely will be many more claims from the latter group in the future, so how this issue is resolved now will eventually affect many active duty personnel.

A thorough, initial evaluation by an experienced professional is crucial to improving PTSD compensation decisions, the committee said. These exams determine whether former service members are experiencing PTSD and how severe it is. Currently, the time devoted to the evaluations varies widely as does the amount of detail examiners provide to the raters who determine the appropriate level of compensation. Moreover, many veterans denied compensation eventually receive it after applying for re-evaluation, sometimes multiple times. Ensuring that every veteran making a claim receives a comprehensive evaluation could make the process more efficient.

The report offers a star
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Contact: Christine Stencel
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
8-May-2007


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