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Help for Veterans with PTSD and Their Families


A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet

Veterans experiencing the symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often request several types of assistance, as do their families. As a research and education organization, the National Center for PTSD cannot provide this assistance, but we can refer you to the people who can provide assistance. Here are the answers to some questions about PTSD and service-connected disability that are frequently asked by veterans and their families.

Do I have PTSD?

A natural first question is whether the symptoms really are due to PTSD. Stress symptoms are not always due to PTSD, and it is helpful to know if they are specifically the result of psychological trauma and if they are the full condition of PTSD. Such symptoms may be due to other conditions created by stressors other than trauma (for example, work or financial pressures), medical problems (such as heart conditions or diabetes), or other psychological conditions (such as depression or anxiety).


The VA Medical Center system's specialized PTSD clinics and programs can provide to eligible veterans educational information and diagnostic evaluations concerning PTSD. The Readjustment Counseling Service's community-based Vet Centers can provide educational information and diagnostic evaluations concerning PTSD to any veteran who served in a war zone or in a military conflict (such as in Panama, Grenada, or Somalia).

If I have other stress, medical, or psychological problems, do I also have PTSD?

Veterans with PTSD often have other types of stress, medical, or psychological problems in addition to PTSD. Sometimes PTSD is unintentionally overlooked when other problems seem particularly pressing, and it can be helpful to know if PTSD also needs to be treated.


VA Medical Center specialized PTSD programs and VA Readjustment Counseling Service Vet Centers

What kinds of education and treatment can help me (or my veteran family member)?

There are several types of education and treatment for PTSD that have proven helpful to veterans and their family members. These include classes on dealing with PTSD symptoms, stress, anger, sleep, and personal relationships.  Individual, group, and family counseling and selected medications have also been helpful.


You may wish to begin by reviewing the general information on PTSD provided on our Web site. For specific options for education and treatment in your local area, contact the closest VA Medical Center specialized PTSD program or VA Readjustment Counseling Service Vet Center.

How can I establish that I am disabled due to PTSD caused by military service?

A determination of service-connected disability for PTSD is made by the Compensation and Pension Service, an arm of VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. The clinicians who provide care for veterans in VA's specialized PTSD clinics and Vet Centers do not make this decision. A formal request (claim) must be filed by the veteran using forms provided by the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. After all the forms are submitted, the veteran must complete interviews concerning her or his social history (a review of family, work, and educational experiences before, during, and after military service) and psychiatric status (a review of past and current psychological symptoms and of traumatic experiences during military service). The forms and information about the application process can be obtained by Benefits Officers at any VA Medical Center, Outpatient Clinic, or Regional Office.

The process of applying for a VA disability for PTSD can take several months and can be both complicated and quite stressful. The Veterans Service Organizations provide Service Officers at no cost to help veterans and family members pursue VA disability claims. Service Officers are familiar with every step in the application and interview process and can provide both technical guidance and moral support. In addition, some Service Officers particularly specialize in assisting veterans with PTSD disability claims. Even if a veteran has not been a member of a specific Veterans Service Organization, the veteran still can request the assistance of a Service Officer working for that organization. In order to get representation by a qualified and helpful Service Officer, you can directly contact the local office of any Veterans Service Organization.  You may also wish to ask for recommendations from other veterans who have applied for VA disability or from a PTSD specialist at a VA PTSD clinic or a Vet Center.

My claim for a VA PTSD disability has been turned down by the Benefits Office, but I believe I have PTSD due to military service. What can I do?

Contact a Veterans Service Officer who can explain how to file an appeal and who can help you gather the information necessary to make a successful appeal. You may want to contact a Service Officer who has extensive experience in helping veterans file and appeal claims specifically for PTSD.

I can't get records from the military that I need for my disability claim.  What can I do?

Veterans Service Officers can help you file the specific paperwork required to obtain your military records. If your Service Officer is not able to help you get necessary records, ask him or her to refer you to another Service Officer who has more experience in getting records.

The information on this Web site is presented for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider.

All information contained on these pages is in the public domain unless explicit notice is given to the contrary, and may be copied and distributed without restriction.

For more information call the PTSD Information Line at (802) 296-6300 or send email to This page was last updated on Wed Dec 4 12:22:01 2002.

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