Obama: New PTSD rules ‘long overdue step’

By the CNN Wire Staff July 10, 2010 11:26 a.m. EDT

Washington (CNN) — The Department of Veterans Affairs is making it  easier for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder to get  benefits, a development President Barack Obama calls a “long overdue  step.”           In his weekly address Saturday, Obama said Veterans Affairs will launch new  rules for easing PTSD documentation requirements starting next week.           Current department rules require veterans to document events like firefights  or bomb explosions that could have caused the disorder. Such documentation was  often time-consuming and difficult, and sometimes was impossible.           Under the new rules a veteran need show only that he or she served in a war  and performed a job during which events could have happened that could cause  the disorder.   “… for years, many veterans with PTSD who have tried to seek benefits  — veterans of today’s wars and earlier wars — have often found themselves  stymied. They’ve been required to produce evidence proving that a specific  event caused their PTSD. And that practice has kept the vast majority of those  with PTSD who served in non-combat roles, but who still waged war, from getting  the care they need,” Obama said.   “Well, I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take  notes to keep for a claims application. And I’ve met enough veterans to know  that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war. So  we’re changing the way things are done.”           Under the new rules, no benefits will be passed along until a Veterans  Affairs psychiatrist or psychologist confirms that a veteran actually suffers  from post-traumatic stress disorder. Department officials say that should  reduce the risk of fraudulent claims.           One congressional analysis reportedly put the cost of the new changes at $5  billion.           A senior department official said the cost is “relatively small”  because under the older, much longer process, most vets eventually were granted  benefits. The new process, while likely granting benefits to more veterans,  will be quicker and easier and therefore less costly per case, officials said.           Obama says the new process “will help veterans not just of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but generations of their  brave predecessors who proudly served and sacrificed in all our wars.   “It’s a step that proves America will always be here for our  veterans, just as they’ve been there for us. We won’t let them down. We take  care of our own.”

CNN’s Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report.