Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently eased requirements for documentation of traumatic events in the adjudication of claims for service-connected disability for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This action has widely been interpreted as meaning that the occurrence of an actual traumatic event is no longer required for PTSD service connection. For example, a New York Times article indicated on July 7 that the VA's “new rule would also allow compensation for service members who had good reason to fear traumatic events, known as stressors, even if they did not actually experience them.”1 A July 17 Wall Street Journal article by a prominent psychiatric commentator noted that the “new VA rule allow[s] veterans to receive disability benefits for PTSD if, as non-combatants, they had good reason to fear hostile activity, such as firefights or explosions. In other words, veterans can now file a benefits claim for being traumatized by events they did not actually experience.”2
Pitman RK. A Recent VA Rules Change and the Traumatic Event Requirement in PTSD. JAMA. 2010;304(21):2409-2410. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1739