Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D. hailed today's announcement by Veterans Administration Secretary Shinseki that the VA will adopt a rule granting presumption of service connection to any veteran who served in a combat zone and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Dr. Kagen has taken the lead on this issue co-sponsoring the COMBAT PTSD Act (H.R. 952) in February 2009, which focused exclusively on creating a presumption of service connected disability for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. He has also consistently backed efforts to get action from the VA, such as the rule change announced today, in advance of a legislative requirement.
"Today's news is long overdue for veterans and their families who have experienced PTSD," said Dr. Kagen. "It is our duty to care for all who have answered the call to defend our nation, including those with wounds we may never see."
Currently, less than half of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans diagnosed with PTSD are receiving benefits from the VA. But, the rule change will also have a dramatic impact on many of our older veterans, to include the Vietnam era, who are often diagnosed many years after their traumatic incident making service connection very difficult to establish.
"Those who risked their lives in defense of our liberties deserve nothing less than the best care when they return home," continued Dr. Kagen. "This critical improvement to VA policy will ensure that veterans of all generations receive the care they deserve."
Before this change in VA regulations, veterans who applied for disability benefits to compensate for PTSD had to demonstrate to the VA that their illness was service related, essentially denying benefits to thousands of veterans unable to document their claims after their discharge from service. The new rule will make it easier for all veterans suffering from PTSD to receive VA health care and disability compensation, and many Vietnam veterans who were denied PTSD benefits in the past may now be eligible.