U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs logo
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs logo - 
Listen To The Story


Kai Ryssdal: The Veteran's Administration decided today that it's going to make it easier for soldiers diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to get benefits. The VA's going to relax some of its strict rules that have buried a lot of veterans in paperwork. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are going to be eligible. As will Vietnam vets still trying to prove they qualify.

From the Marketplace Health Desk at WHYY in Philadelphia, Gregory Warner reports.

Gregory Warner: It was decades after his tour as platoon commander in Vietnam that Ted Balzarini got his diagnosis from the Department of Veterans Affairs. They said he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Then came the hard part, getting that same department to give him disability benefits. After six months of filing paperwork and waiting, Balzarini got approved. His reaction?

Ted Balzarini: This can't be true. Ha. I couldn't believe it when it came through!

Balzarini was one of the lucky ones, he says. There are about 150,000 veterans diagnosed with PTSD by doctors from the VA. But an analysis of the records show that only half of those vets were been approved for disability checks. The VA is now changing their eligibility rules as soon as next week. No longer will you have to prove that your PTSD came from the war.

Aaron Glantz: With our veterans there's a presumption that they're not telling the truth.

Aaron Glantz is the author of two books about Iraq, including "The War Comes Home." He said veterans that apply for benefits have had to specify the exact events like a mortar attack that caused their trauma.

Glantz: You need to be interviewed by a claims examiner who would try to poke holes in your story.

Advocates say the old rules left out thousands of service members who did not serve in active combat but suffered trauma nonetheless. Congressional analysts estimate the new rules could cost the government an additional $5 billion over the next several years as more veterans return home and sign up.

I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

Follow Gregory Warner at @radiogrego