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Lack of diagnosis could hurt benefits

The deep backlog the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is currently dealing with has ramifications for the system and country as a whole, but perhaps more importantly, a big impact on the individuals who do not receive benefits.

NPR’s Quil Lawrence spoke with Reed Holway, a veteran returning from Iraq, who received a bad conduct discharge after suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism after and during his deployment. He was arrested after hitting a small child. Doctors say he acquired his PTSD in Iraq but was never properly diagnosed or treated for it before it was too late.

Now, Holway works for and rents housing from his father, paying for PTSD medication and rent out of his own pocket. Getting an early, proper diagnosis from VA is key for veterans returning home, as it can make a big difference in the treatment plan. Lawrence said due to Holways’ bad conduct charge, he is not eligible for help with his disease.

The Institute of Medicine reported that for servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan, levels of PTSD is as high as 20 percent. Alcohol abuse is at 39 percent and depression is at 37 percent. There are likely similar stories to Holway’s; it is important to ensure they are taken care by VA before it is too late.

Veterans with a discharge status that precludes them from VA medical treatment should consider attempting to upgrade their discharge. PTSD is a serious and often lifelong condition that can color every aspect of a veteran’s life. The Law Offices of Harold W. Conick and Associates is available to assist veterans with their VA claim.