VA: Are You Sure It’s PTSD – Claims Backlog – and More

By Bob Gutsche, VietNow National VA Chairman

Maybe it’s not PTSD

VA NewsSo often when our warriors return and begin to transition to civilian life they experience problems. Things like over-reaction to something a family member does, such as spilling milk at the table – or having an exaggerated startle response to the slightest noise. The veterans experience emotional instability in their lives.

It seems that the initial response to some of these behaviors is to immediately refer the warrior to a mental-health professional for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) treatment. While the problem may be caused by PTSD, there’s also the possibility that they are afflicted with a more insidious ailment, such as TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). That’s why it’s important to be aware that they may have been exposed to IED events or blast concussion. These inappropriate responses to life should not be immediately disregarded. They may be signs of a possible problem caused by TBI.

The human brain can withstand many mild shocks, but damage caused by concussions is often not repairable, and has to be addressed as a medical condition. So often families fear the warrior is losing touch with reality and life, and the family is at a loss as to what to do. It’s important that the warrior be referred to a trained neurologist for evaluation before labeling the problem as PTSD.

Amazing – truly amazing

Hold on to your hats. On June 30th the VA announced that, “As a result of the initiative launched in April to expedite disability claims decisions for veterans who have waited for a year or longer, more than 65,000 claims – or 97 percent of all claims over two years old in the inventory – have been eliminated from the backlog.”

What I find most amazing is that for the past several years the VA had been unable to show any significant progress in the elimination of the backlog of claims. But in two short months they seem to have solved the problem. I hope that they have made good decisions on these claims.

I’d like to see the numbers of claims that were denied and/or returned as not being complete. I also would like to see a breakdown of the rating percentages awarded for the claims. When get a response to these questions through appropriate channels I’ll keep you informed.

Could we simplify the procedure?

I remember that a few years ago the buzzword was “One Stop Shopping.” Maybe it’s time revisit this concept.

Many of us recall the difficulty we experienced when trying to access our available benefits and programs after our time in the military. Our returning veterans are facing those same problems today as they try to apply for various programs that require duplication of information during the application process.

In this day of electronic communication and data sharing there should be a “One Stop” location online and in every community, where a veteran would be able to enter all the necessary information to apply for appropriate benefits – after which the veteran would be linked up to the appropriate programs.

This would eliminate the numerous requests for duplicate information from an assortment of programs – saving a lot of time and frustration. For some veterans, the task of wading through the labyrinth of forms becomes overwhelming, and many just give up without receiving the benefits they have earned.

I’m calling you – can you hear me?

So often we become discouraged when trying to get our message across to our elected officials. We find it easier to cop out and say, “It doesn’t matter what we think.” It’s time to discard that belief, and make sure our voices are heard by our representatives in Congress. You can contact the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask to be connected to the office of your elected official.

When you reach their office, be polite – and if you’re calling about veterans issues, ask to speak with the staff member who deals with this area of legislation. And be sure to request a written response to your inquiry.

Welcome home

Until next time remember to welcome home any returning warriors that you meet.


Bob Gutsche, VietNow National VA ChairmanAfter over 20 years in the U.S. Navy, VietNow National VA Chairman, Bob Gutsche worked as a counselor in the VA system for many years.