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red star bulletRelated Links:What is PTSD? / Tips on Working with Your Service Representative / Get Help / Apply / Develop Evidence / Establish Diagnosis / Establish Stressor / How the VA Evaluates Levels of Disability / How to Respond to the VA's Decision / Incarcerated Veterans / VA Medical Services / Help for Children / Social Security Benefits / Vietnam Veterans of America / Lawyers

When to Apply

You should notify the VA of the benefits you want at the earliest possible time. From anywhere in the U.S., you can call the nearest VA Regional Office (VARO) by using the following number: 1-800-827-1000. Do not wait until you have gathered all of the evidence that you think you will need. Every day you delay can mean another day of benefits lost forever.

Warning: Do not be discouraged by a VA employee who says you are not entitled to benefits. Put your claim in writing and insist on a written reply from the VA.

How to Apply

To apply, send the VA a letter stating that you have a problem with your nerves, emotions, etc., that arose out of your military service. This is called an informal claim and will count as an application (although you will eventually be required to submit a formal application on VA form 21-526).  If you have not heard from the VA within one month, you should call to confirm that your application has been received.  If you have applied before, been denied and did not file a formal appeal, send a letter that states that you wish to reopen your claim with new and material evidence.

What to Apply For

The VA offers monetary benefits to veterans with service-connected disabilities (under its disability compensation program) and to veterans with serious nonservice-connected disabilities (under its pension program). Survivors may be entitled to benefits if the VA determines that the veteran had a service-connected disability that caused, or substantially contributed to cause, the veteran’s death.  (See below).

Who Can Apply

A claim for PTSD is not limited to veterans who participated in combat with the enemy.  For example, sexual assaults, vehicular accidents, being a victim of a crime or other sufficiently traumatic events during service can support a diagnosis of PTSD for VA claims purposes.  Merely being in stressful situations, or being “stressed-out” generally will not be sufficient.

Sometimes a veteran’s survivor, including spouses, children and dependent parents can apply for service-connected death benefits (Dependency and Indemnity Compensation or DIC program) or for the nonservice-connected death benefits (pension program). A survivor might be able to show that a veteran with service-connected PTSD died as a consequence of a disease that was secondary to PTSD, e.g., cardiovascular disease, substance abuse (in certain cases).


If you have applied in the past and were denied, you may have a hard time reopening your claim. There is no specific VA application form to use to reopen your claim, but there are specific rules you must follow in terms of the evidence required in order for the VA to reopen the claim.  Consult your service representative for details on what kind of "new and material evidence" you need to present.


Copyright © 2004, Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ISBN 0-964-3980-4-4.

Segments of this guide may be excerpted or reproduced for counseling, self-help, and scholarly purposes, but not for profit, without further permission; we request only that proper credit be given. Any other use requires written authorization of VVA, ATTN: Director, Veterans Benefits Program, 8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Suite 400, Silver Spring, MD. 20910. E-mail us at


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