PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is, unfortunately, a common disorder among veterans once they return to civilian life. After experiencing a traumatic event, such as seeing intense battle in a war situation, some people later feel fear, helplessness, horror, and a whole range of reactions due to their trauma.
Sometimes, in extreme cases, PTSD can interfere with your employability since these symptoms can make it difficult to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Because of this, the VA offers PTSD Individual Unemployability Benefits for those who are unable to hold down a job due to their PTSD.
Here, we’re going over how to claim these benefits along with exploring other options for veterans who may have less severe PTSD yet still need some assistance.
Stigmas Associated With PTSD
To start, it’s important to talk about the stigma associated with PTSD and mental illness in general. Our culture tends to look at mental illness as something that only “crazy” people deal with and we tend to tie a person’s identity with their mental struggles.
Yet, we don’t look at physical illness or injuries in the same light. When you see someone with a broken arm, you’re not blaming the person for the outcome or assuming they’ll never heal. So, why do we treat those with mental illness any differently?
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These societal pressures often create an internal struggle where people who are suffering with mental illness feel shame and guilt about reaching out for help. One might fear professional demise or a personal loss of respect from their peers if others found out they were seeing a psychologist or taking medication for their mental health.
The important thing to remember when dealing with mental illness like PTSD is that getting help is always the best solution. Just like you go to the doctor when you’re physically not feeling well, it should be more encouraged to go to the doctor when we’re not feeling mentally well.
Although PTSD is usually more of a chronic mental illness that you’ll likely always have to manage to some extent, it is manageable if you have the right tools. Working with a mental health professional and accessing these tools is the first step in pushing past the stigma and moving on with your life after a traumatic experience.
VA PTSD Individual Unemployability Benefits
Even with the proper assistance and access to tools, some people continue to struggle with severe PTSD that affects their ability to work. Just like a physical disability might permanently bar you from working in certain positions, the same is true of a particularly intense mental illness.
That’s why the VA offers PTSD Individual Unemployability Benefits. However, in most cases, it’s rather tricky to claim these benefits with PTSD alone. Usually, veterans have to prove they have more than one reason for their unemployability like a physical ailment on top of their PTSD symptoms.
Still, there are some extreme cases of PTSD that make it all but impossible to maintain employment and it’s certainly still possible to claim these benefits with PTSD alone.
Veterans who are able to obtain VA Individual Unemployability Benefits with PTSD on its own will probably have at least one or a combination of the following symptoms:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Obsessive rituals that interfere with productivity and routines
- Illogical, irrelevant, or obscure speech patterns
- Chronic manic or depressive episodes affecting one’s ability to function independently and appropriately
- Spatial disorientation
- Poor impulse control
- Poor personal hygiene
- Difficulty managing stressful situations
- Inability to establish and maintain relationships
All of these requirements can be met with written documentation from a doctor, therapist, psychologist, or other mental health experts to make an Individual Unemployment Benefits claim.
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The way these benefits work is based on a scale that determines your total disability. To qualify, you must have either one condition, such as PTSD that gets a rating of 60 percent or higher on its own; or have a combined rating of 70 percent when claiming PTSD alongside another service-related condition so long as at least one of those conditions is rated at least 40 percent on its own.
So again, when a veteran has both mental and physical impairments, they become more likely to receive these benefits versus only suffering from PTSD alone. Perhaps this goes back to the stigma we place on mental illness not being taken as seriously as physical illness.
Does Mental Illness Make You Unemployable for Law Enforcement?
One of the biggest questions many veterans ask is whether they’re eligible to work in law enforcement with their PTSD. The answer isn’t straightforward but in short, there are some police officers who work in the field that do suffer from PTSD. The trick is how well you manage your symptoms.
Working in law enforcement is a great way for veterans to use the skills they learned in the military while living a civilian life. But, policing is an incredibly stressful job at times and if you have PTSD, it’s easy to get triggered by the day-to-day workload since it might feel similar to a traumatic event you experienced in the military.
Some police officers might not even realize they have PTSD until something on the job triggers a response. After all, most police departments do a mental health check during the interview process but sometimes PTSD can be dormant until an event triggers unhealthy reactions.
In this case, it’s possible to keep your job as long as you know how to manage your symptoms. The best thing to do is work with a mental health professional who can help you figure out what to do when you’re triggered, what your triggers are, and how to appropriately rewire your brain to react differently in the future.
This advice is important for veterans suffering from PTSD trying to hold down any civilian job, not only jobs in law enforcement. If you find it difficult to manage a law enforcement job because it’s just too triggering, you might do better in a desk job or doing something less stressful.
If it’s still difficult to manage your symptoms, then it might be time to consider claiming unemployability benefits for your PTSD.
Why Companies Should Hire Vets With PTSD
Circling back to the stigma toward mental illness and PTSD, employers are known to be overcautious when it comes to hiring vets out of fear that their mental health issues might lead to poor performance in a variety of ways.
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The first thing to note is that a majority of veterans don’t have PTSD. And of the 11 to 20 percent of veterans that do experience PTSD, many of them recover from the disorder with proper counseling, medication, and lifestyle adjustments.
So, by treating PTSD similarly to how we treat someone who’s badly broken a limb, it might help employers understand how to support an employee with PTSD instead of being afraid to hire them or write them off when certain tasks are a struggle for them in the beginning.
Veterans are often incredible employees thanks to their military background and are typically quite versatile in their skill set. Every branch of the military requires a laundry list of tasks with dire consequences if done poorly or ineffectively.
So, instead of worrying about PTSD among veterans, we should be focusing on all the advantages there are to hiring veterans – because there are many.
If you’re interested in claiming VA PTSD Individual Unemployability Benefits, reach out to your local VA office.