Between 13 and 20 percent of soldiers and marines deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This illness has gained increasing attention from the public and the news media as veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq return home.
Veterans receiving VA disability benefits may get a cost of living adjustment (COLA) equal to the increase already passed for Social Security old-age pensions. The bill was sponsored by New Jersey Republican congressman Jon Runyan. Congressman Runyan was also responsible for leading the successful effort to pass similar legislation in 2011.
This blog has frequently discussed the delays experienced by veterans when applying for disability benefits - a backlog caused by increased applications, out-of-date computer systems, reliance on paper forms, and a seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy. Congress has taken notice, and veterans groups have stepped up to advocate for their disabled comrades. There are now more than 900,000 unprocessed disability claims.
The VA expects to spend around $57 billion on disability benefits next year, an increase of 25 percent over this year and 400 percent of the amount spent in 2000, $15 billion. What's going on?
Patriot's Day, or April 18, is only celebrated in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth closes its offices to commemorate the midnight ride of Paul Revere, when the intrepid silversmith rode from Boston into the countryside to raise the alarm so that the militia would be ready for the advancing British army.
2,300 Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) respondents have reported that they suffer from a combat-related mental health condition. 62 percent said they were depressed - eight times more than the general population. This is even four times higher than the number cited in a 2008 Rand Corporation study of head injuries and related conditions among the military.
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects soldiers and veterans, men and women, in increasing numbers. According to the latest Military Times poll, 14 percent of males on active duty reported receiving PTSD diagnoses, up from nine percent in last year's poll. The rate even higher for active-duty females: now 22 percent, up from 15 percent.
An Army study recently reported that suicides among U.S. soldiers rose significantly from 2004 to 2008, with more than a third of the suicides occurring among soldiers with combat experience in Iraq. However, another third of the suicide victims saw no combat service at all, the study found.
Veterans who receive disability and other VA benefits will soon receive their payments electronically. Effective March 1, 2013, vets will get their disability benefits via direct deposit to a bank account or by using a debit card available from a number of sources. In addition to affecting veterans who receive disability checks, this change will also apply to recipients of Social Security, SSI, Railroad Retirement Board and federal employee pensions.
Most veterans are generally aware that they may be eligible for disability benefits for service-related injuries or illnesses. However, they don't always know the details of the VA disability benefit program, and they may never even apply for benefits they need and deserve.