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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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New Rules for Vets Wanting PTSD Benefits

July 12, 2010 - 1:40 PM | by: Justin Fishel

WASHINGTON — The government is making it easier for veterans of all wars to claim benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a step President Barack Obama said is “long overdue.”  It’s a welcomed step within the military community, but also raises questions about an increased potential for fraud.

Veterans Affairs Secretary, Eric Shinseki, wrote in op-ed over the weekend the past process for claiming benefits was “neither fair nor sustainable.” He said strict rules required combat veterans to provide detailed documentation of combat incidents to prove that they were part of a traumatic incident. For those who were not serving in combat roles, “the burden of proof was even higher,” Shinseki wrote.

The new rules, he said, will eliminate excessive paperwork and allow for a single Veterans Affairs doctor to determine whether or not an applicant suffers from PTSD.

Benefits for PTSD can amount as much as $2,700 a month per recipient.

Speaking at a press conference Monday, officials at the Veterans Affairs (VA) headquarters in Washington D.C. called the reform a “liberalization” of the current policy.

But critics worry that making it easier to receive benefits could open the floodgates for new applicants looking to take advantage of the system.

Michael Walcoff, VA Acting Under Secretary for Benefits, told reporters Monday that the VA believes additional costs will be minimal. By enabling more people to get into the system more quickly, “the savings will come to society,” Walcoff said. “It winds up offsetting some of the costs society would have paid if we hadn’t done that.”

The VA says 400,000 veterans are currently receiving compensation for PTSD and they expect the number to grow higher as long as the U.S. still has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

June was the deadliest month in the history of the Afghan war. A total of 102 Coalition troops died; 60 of them were Americans.

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