I received a very sad telephone call this morning. It was the wife of one of my clients. She informed me that her husband, the veteran, just committed suicide.
At the time of death, the veteran had been service connected for PTSD and was seeking a higher rating for his disability. The VA had rated him only at 30 percent for the PTSD. We felt it was far lower than it should have been.
In order to qualify, the highest rating criteria for PTSD involve symptoms like being in a persistent risk of harming oneself or others. One cannot get any more serious about harming oneself than a successful suicide. We believe this suicide is the most poignant evidence that the veteran’s service connected PTSD was very serious.
Sadly, it often takes a veteran’s death by suicide to convince VA that his PTSD is serious. Just a few weeks ago my associate was speaking to this veteran who indicated that he thinks of suicide almost daily. Yet the VA probably still believed that he was exaggerating his symptoms and was not entitled to anything more than a meager 30 percent rating.
It is estimate that a veterans commits suicide every 65 minutes in the U.S. Is this the best the United States of America has to offer? We have boasted of the largest and most technically advanced military in the world, but yet our veterans come home with severe mental disabilities that continue to produce casualties long after the war is over and we do very little about it.
It’s too late for this veteran. He’s already gone. But how many others are there like him that daily contemplate suicide hoping that someone will help them? Unfortunately, by the time people wake up and realize that a veteran’s condition is serious, it’s often too late.
When I contemplate this case I’m reminded about how VA tends to underrate psychiatric disabilities. The average victim of PTSD looks normal on the outside, and this may deceive many VA examiners. It seems that they expect you to be living on the streets, eating out of garbage cans, and smelling like you slept in a dumpster to actually warrant a 100 percent rating. It should not get to the point that a veteran is living on the fringes before VA recognizes the seriousness of his psychiatric symptoms. When VA denies you for a higher rating for PTSD, please do not do what this client did. Seek out legal assistance with a qualified veteran’s disability attorney who can fight aggressively to help you win your case when VA denies a higher rating for PTSD.