How Do You Write a Statement In Support of A Claim for PTSD?

If you need to make a claim because of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD, the VA has a form titled VA 21-0781 which you will need to use. On the form, the VA instructs Veterans to detail any in-service event which may have contributed to the Veteran’s claimed PTSD. In addition to these details, it is in the Veteran’s best interest to include the following information on the same VA 21-0781 form.

  1. State how long these symptoms have lasted;
  2. State whether these symptoms create distress or limit the Veteran’s ability to function normally;
  3. State whether or not these symptoms are actually due to any condition other than PTSD, such as medication, substance abuse, or any other known cause (please note if these other conditions are due to PTSD – such as substance abuse brought about by self-medicating to avoid the symptoms of PTSD);
  1. State whether the in-service event was a death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. The Veteran should state how he or she was exposed to this event using the following examples:
    1. Direct exposure,
    2. Witnessing the trauma in person,
    3. Indirectly by learning that a close relative or close friend was exposed to trauma, or
    4. Indirect exposure to horrible details of the event(s), usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, collecting body parts; professionals repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse);
  1. State whether the traumatic event is continually re-experienced in the following way(s):
    1. Recurrent, involuntary, and invasive memories,
    2. Nightmares,
    3. Flashbacks,
    4. Intense or prolonged distress after exposure to reminders of the trauma, or
    5. Noticeable physical reactions after exposure to reminders of the trauma (sweaty palms, increased heart rate, etc.);
  1. State whether there is an avoidance of trauma-related thoughts or feelings and trauma-related external reminders, such as people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations;
  2. State whether the Veteran has any negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
    1. Inability to recall key features of the trauma,
    2. Overly (and often distorted) negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “The world is completely dangerous”),
    3. Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma event or for resulting consequences,
    4. Negative affect / negative trauma-related emotions (e.g., fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame),
    5. Decreased interest in (pre-traumatic) activities,
    6. Feeling isolated (e.g., detachment or estrangement), or
    7. Difficulty experiencing positive affect / persistent inability to experience positive emotions; and
  1. State whether there are trauma-related changes in behavior and personality that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
    1. Irritability or aggression,
    2. Risky or destructive behavior,
    3. Hypervigilance,
    4. Heightened startle reaction,
    5. Difficulty concentrating, or
    6. Difficulty sleeping.

This additional information is aligned with the manual (DSM-V) that many mental health professionals use in diagnosing PTSD and can significantly help the VA and its professionals determine if a Veteran has PTSD.  This additional information can also help the Veteran convince the VA to provide him or her with a compensation and pension examination.

Tod, is a service-connected Veteran of the United States Army and a partner at the law firm of Grimes Teich Anderson, LLP, in charge of the firm’s Veterans Law section.  His firm has offices in North and South Carolina, and his Veterans practice is national. 

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