POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
The USDVA provides disability compensation benefits and mental health services for those veterans who suffer from symptoms related to a traumatic event or experience while in service, also known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
USDVA's Make the Connection site states that “some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories or nightmares of the event, sleeplessness, loss of interest, and feelings of numbness, anger or irritability, or being constantly on guard, but there are many ways PTSD can impact your everyday life. Sometimes these symptoms don't surface for months or even years after the event occurred or after returning from deployment. They may also come and go. If these problems persist or they're disrupting your daily life, you may have PTSD."
If you experience or have continued to experience symptoms like these, you are not alone. Connect with care either through the USDVA or with your own provider. There is help available and treatments that work.
Learn more about PTSD:
MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA (MST)
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) refers to sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs during military service. MST is another form of trauma that a veteran may experience while in service. MST can happen to anyone during their service regardless of age, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, or nationality. MST can have negative impacts on a survivor's mental and physical health, even many years after service. If you are a survivor of MST please connect with your local VSO for support and benefit options.
For more information about MST, treatment, resources and how to connect with the USDVA:
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI)
Sadly, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) wasn't as well known or understood for veterans as it has been for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Our understanding of the long-term effects of exposure to explosions has been expanded in these newer conflicts, some of which are the result of studies conducted on veterans who experienced these types of combat injuries. What we know now is that TBI symptoms can be mistaken for behavioral problems or mental health conditions. Our concern is that there are veterans who were treated with discipline or discharge when they were suffering from TBI-related issues that should have been treated medically. The USDVA does provide physical and/or mental health care as well as disability compensation benefits for veterans experiencing TBI as a result of their military service.
Learn more about TBI: www.maketheconnection.net/conditions/traumatic-brain-injury/
IMPACT OF SERVICE ON YOUR HEALTH
Service and its resulting impacts on veterans' health cannot be overstated. There are numerous health risks for veterans associated with their War service including diseases related to Agent Orange exposure, Hepatitis C, hearing problems like hearing loss and tinnitus related to noise exposures, heat/cold injuries, and so forth.
Veterans who served for any length of time between 1/9/62 and 5/7/75, in at least one of the following locations are presumed to have had exposure to Agent Orange and may be eligible for health care and disability compensation benefits for those specific diseases recognized by the USDVA, to be the result of Agent Orange exposure:
- In the Republic of, or
- Aboard a U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of, or
- On a vessel operating not more than 12-nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Cambodia, or
- On regular perimeter duty on the fenced-in perimeters of a U.S. Army installation in Thailand or a Royal Thai Air Force base. These bases include U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, or Don Muang.
Learn more about veteran health related issues: www.va.gov/health-care/health-needs-conditions/health-issues-related-to-service-era/-war/
AGENT ORANGE AND THE NEW BLUE WATER NAVY ACT
There are additional duties and locations for which veterans may have served that are also presumed to have resulted in Agent Orange exposure. Recently, the USDVA added three additional conditions that are presumed to be the result of Agent Orange exposure for those specified veterans. The newest presumptive conditions now recognized by the USDVA are Bladder Cancer, Hypothyroidism, and Parkinsonism.
The Blue Water Navy Veterans Act of 2019, extends the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to veterans who served as far as 12-nautical miles from the shore of, or who had served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and as such, those veterans may be entitled to service connection for any of the 14-conditions recognized as being related to herbicide exposure. The USDVA has also extended benefits to children with spina bifida (non-occulta) for whose parents are now recognized as 'Blue Water Navy' veterans.
Learn more about Blue Water Navy: benefits.va.gov/benefits/blue-water-navy.asp
The USDVA also offers a free comprehensive Agent Orange Registry Health Exam for eligible veterans that includes an exposure and medical history component, physical exam and tests if needed. Other detailed information about veterans and Agent Orange exposure, and a complete list of the diseases and conditions presumed to be the result of Agent Orange exposure for veterans having served during the specified timeframes and in the specified locations can be found at the resources below.
Learn more Agent Orange :
HAZARDOUS MATERIAL EXPOSURE
Contact with harmful chemicals or other hazardous materials like asbestos or contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune during specified periods, while serving in the military, may also be related to other diseases, illnesses, and conditions impacting veterans. Simply serving in the military continuously for at least 90 days, means you are approximately twice as likely to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) as those who have not served. If you served continuously for at least 90 days and have been diagnosed with ALS after being discharged, it is presumed to be related to your military service. You could receive USDVA healthcare and disability compensation for this service-connected condition.
Learn more about Hazardous Material Exposure: www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/
OTHER THAN HONORABLE DISCHARGE DUE TO UNDIAGNOSED MENTAL HEALTH CONDITIONS OR THAT ARE SEXUAL ORIENTATION-RELATED
Other than Honorable discharges were utilized in a number of harmful ways when it comes to Veterans. Those who suffered from undiagnosed TBI and mental health conditions such as PTSD or depression, following their combat service in, were often victims of discharges characterized as other than honorable. These veterans were seen by some as having troublesome behavior or misconduct problems, or substance use disorders, that were considered the fault of the veteran and not the fault of traumatic combat experiences.
Veterans who identified as LGBTQ+ were also victims or discriminatory policies and many also received less than honorable discharges. In some cases, LGBTQ+ Veterans received an honorable discharge while receiving homosexual narratives in their DD214 discharge narratives.
These types of discharges resulted in many of our most vulnerable veterans having no access to critical support, services, and healthcare at the time they needed it most. Compounded by the lack of homecoming support upon their return, many veterans isolated from their loved ones, self-medicated with substance use, entered cycles of houselessness, died by suicide, or have suffered in silence for all of these years. Slowly, we are learning about how military service changes people and that these changes are not always reflective of what is considered 'honorable' military conduct.
If you have a discharge that is characterized as other than honorable, and you suffer/suffered from the effects of TBI, PTSD, MST, or LGBTQ+ related issues ODVA may be able to assist you in obtaining USDVA benefits and/or upgrading your discharge: