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VA Cancels Review of Stress Claims

Associated Press | November 10, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs has canceled a yearlong review of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder claims after an internal review determined that problems with the files were simple clerical errors, not fraud.

The news was welcomed by veterans at VA hospitals around the country who had been nervous that previously accepted claims worth millions of dollars a year were in jeopardy.

In May, an inspector general's internal study found inconsistencies in the way the claims were decided, including many cases approved though they lacked required medical evidence. Post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental illness characterized by subjective symptoms like flashbacks and nightmares, can be difficult to diagnose and quantify.

The VA started to review 72,000 claims approved between 1999 and 2004 for full disability benefits - $2,299 a month - for PTSD alone or in combination with other conditions. But in looking more closely at the sample of 2,100 claims reviewed by the Inspector General, the problem appeared to be missing documents, Veterans Secretary R. James Nicholson said Thursday.

"In the absence of evidence of fraud, we're not going to put our veterans through the anxiety of a widespread review of their disability claims," Nicholson said. "Instead, we're going to improve our training for VA personnel who handle disability claims and toughen administrative oversight."

Nicholson emphasized that the PTSD is considered a "combat wound" and taken as seriously as bullets and shrapnel. "During my review process I needed to have a Purple Heart, Valor Award like the Bronze Star (Or Higher), CIB or Combat Medic Badge" [Editor]

Copyright 2005 Associated Press.

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