As a former rating specialist for the US Department of Veterans Affairs, I can tell you first hand that a claim for PTSD is one of the most complicated and time-consuming claims the VA handles. As a result — an unfortunate result — many veterans wait years for decisions on these claims. This article provides a brief overview of the process in the hope that veterans will be equipped to better understand the process and deal with its challenges.

To obtain a disability rating for PTSD, a veteran must demonstrate three elements:

  1. A current diagnosis of PTSD by a medical professional.
  2. A corroborated in-service stressor.
  3. Medical evidence linking the PTSD diagnosis to the claimed stressor.

The first element: medical diagnosis of PTSD      

To obtain a rating for PTSD, the veteran must first establish that he currently suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. VA disability benefits are intended to compensate present conditions and disabilities. The VA will not award compensation if the veteran was diagnosed with PTSD in the past, but does not presently suffer from the condition.  Similarly, the VA will not award benefits to someone because they may be predisposed to developing PTSD in the future. The veteran must suffer from a present condition.

Additionally, this element requires that a competent medical professional diagnose the condition using the criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (commonly referred to as the “DSM-V”). The veteran may not rely on a self-diagnosis, or the fact that his friends, family, co-workers, or fellow veterans believe that he exhibits symptoms consistent with PTSD.