Establish A Diagnosis
You cannot be awarded service connection for PTSD if you do not have a current, clear diagnosis of PTSD. That diagnosis should come from a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric social worker or therapist). If at all possible, work with a private mental health professional who has had experience with treating PTSD, who understands the requirements for a clear diagnosis and is willing to provide a detailed medical opinion letter or report that explains exactly the reasons he or she concludes you have PTSD. If you have records that document the in-service stressor, let your doctor review them prior to writing his or her report. It is even better to provide your doctor with a copy of your service medical records. You can request a copy of your service medical records from the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, Mo., using a Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records. This form is available from your representative or any VA office. You can also apply for a copy of your service records online (http://vetrecs.archives.gov).
Frequently, veterans with PTSD may have other diagnoses, e.g., personality disorder or substance abuse. It is very important that your doctor explain how your current diagnosis of PTSD relates to any other psychiatric disorder that you might have. If there is a history of alcohol or drug abuse, the doctor should state whether it preexisted PTSD or not and whether substance abuse developed because of PTSD (i.e., self-medication).
You can expect the VA to contact you for evidence or for permission to request copies of your medical records. If the VA has treated you for your PTSD, make sure to ask that the VA obtain all records from the treatment center.
The VA may schedule you for an examination by one of its doctors at a VA hospital or clinic. This examination (called a compensation or pension (or C&P) examination) is intended to confirm a diagnosis of PTSD and, if present, to describe the nature and severity of its symptoms. Bring copies of any prior psychiatric treatment records to the examination with you. If you do not have records of recent treatment for PTSD, you can specifically request that the VA provide you with a C&P examination.
If you do not already have a private doctor's report, you should expect the VA doctor to ask many questions about what symptoms you have, when you began to have them and how often and how long you have had them. Some of the hardest questions will be about the stressful experience you had. You will need to be able to describe in detail (and sometimes painful detail) exactly what you experienced. You might also be asked to take a written, standardized diagnostic test.
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Veterans of America, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ISBN 0-964-3980-4-4.