KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

VA To Ease Rules For Vets To Qualify For PTSD Benefits

Today, The Department of Veterans Affairs is scheduled to announce it will ease requirements for service members to qualify for post traumatic stress disorder benefits. The change was announced Saturday by President Barack Obama in his weekly address.

Kansas City Star: "Perhaps one of five of the 2 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans since 2001 has PTSD, mental health experts estimate. Veterans advocates say the numbers are higher. … But today, under new filing rules, compensation will be granted if veterans can simply show that they were in a war zone and that their job was consistent with the events said to be causing their health problems. Proof of being under fire or seeing violent death, for example, will not be needed, a boon to women in the military. Not assigned to combat roles in Iraq or Afghanistan, they still often are subjected to traumatic experiences in their duties, from military policing to helicopter piloting" (Kavanaugh, 7/11).

The Associated Press reports that the president said "the country has a 'solemn responsibility' to ensure that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder get the help they need. ... The new rules will not only apply to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but also those who served in previous conflicts" (Pace, 7/10).

The Wall Street Journal: "I don't think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application," Obama said. (Hughes, 7/10).

The Boston Globe: "Qualified veterans are entitled to disability compensation of as much as $2,700 a month, the officials said. … A study last year by the RAND Corporation said nearly 20 percent of returning veterans, or 300,000, have symptoms of PTSD or major depression" (Runningen, 7/11).

ABC News: Obama, who called "post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries the 'signature injuries of today's wars,' ... noted that in the past PTSD wasn't something that was talked about. ... The [new] regulations still require that the diagnosis of PTSD to be verified by a VA psychiatrist or a contracted VA clinician" (Miller, 7/11).

The Hartford Courant: "University of Connecticut researchers have launched a study to determine whether a new method of treating post-traumatic stress disorder could help veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The U.S. Justice Department has given the UConn Health Center a $750,000 grant for the two–year study, which will compare the effectiveness of the new treatment and one currently being used. ... The Justice Department is funding the study in hopes of decreasing the number of veterans who exhibit dysfunctional behaviors and break the law while suffering from PTSD, said Dr. Julian Ford, psychiatrist and principal investigator for the study" (Kiernan, 7/12).

The Hill: In his comments, "Obama didn't specifically reference a finding that the Department of Veterans Affairs made last month, sending a letter to 1,812 patients informing them that they could have been exposed to HIV and other deadly viruses because of dental equipment that was insufficiently sterilized over a period of 13 months. The agency said the risk of infection was 'extremely low,' but urged patients to return for blood tests and was criticized for taking more than three months to send out the letters after it discovered the faulty safety precautions in March. ... Obama referenced 'a 21st century VA,' 'increasing its budget, and ensuring the steady stream of funding it needs to support medical care for our veterans.' Obama said he has asked for congressional funding to fund and implement a 'post-9/11 GI Bill.'" (Rushing, 7/10).

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