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Sample Stressor Letter for the Department Veterans's AffairsIf you do not have a "Combat MOS", a Purple Heart, a Combat Infantry Badge or a medal for valor how can you prove that you have experienced a traumatic event strong enough to produce Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? This letter can and is broken down into three parts for the VA's use. They are called "The Three Life system."
Through therapy I am learning to recognize many of my PTSD problems that I was not aware of before starting. These symptoms have been so much a part of my life that I did not recognize them as being out of the ordinary. Since Nov 1996 I have emotionally continued on a downward spiral fighting this ingrained PTSD. With the help of the Colorado Springs Vet Center, I've entered VAMC-Denver to get additional help for my PTSD.I found it necessary to carry a note-pad around with me to note my reactions to each situation as they accrued or at night when I could think about it.
Life before service
My family background is traditional and is based on an Nuclear Family, having both mother and father living under the same roof, but that also included a great deal of interaction between grandparents, uncles/aunts and their children. Family get-togethers, family picnics during the summer stand out in my mind the most.
I was a high school drop out never going past the 10th grade. At that time, I knew as much as I wanted too! By not completing high school I missed out on many traditional events of school and reduced the options available to me when I enlisted... yes, enlisted into the Army.
Life during military service
This is where you describe unit life, type of duty, how you felt about other members of your team and your interaction with them. BUT the key during this section is to describe your trauma. Give the "Who, what, where, when" of the event or events that you experienced during your time deployed,
I will not waste the space here going over my Stressor Letter. I keep adding to the information as I remember them. I'm a "Stuffer" and only after a near-death experience to my PTSD kick in and turn my life up-side-down.
Be frank and honest with yourself and the VA in this area. Let me tell you that it will hurt! Just writing it down will bring anger, hurt and pain, but must be done!
Life since the PTSD event
Since leaving the Army, I have found life difficult and trying for me. Many times over the last 30 years and even more often in recent times, I have felt that ending my life would be best solution for me. The reason for entering Denver VAMC was a very recent event where suicide became foremost in my mind. But only after a short time (3 months) I lost this job because of an angry outburst on my part. I have looked back on my life and feel that I have accomplished little in my life, my depression has taken its toll, and I'm very tired because of this depression.
I am an "Emotional Stuffer" in the true sense of the word. I do not convey my feelings nor do I express my feelings to anyone very well. I have a difficult time being open and not wishing to hurt other people's feelings. During several times of great stress or anger, I have lived in isolation away from everyone, preferring to live in the mountains. I am much more comfortable living in small towns and even more so in a rural setting like a farm or ranch with no neighbors close by to my family or me.
One of the most vivid dreams and recurring dreams deals with my exposure to leeches after being hit. I was lying in a rice paddy for a night because the VA and NVA kept shooting down our helicopters. When I woke up I had many, many leaches on me. I spent almost an hour looking for leeches then burning them off of me with cigarettes.
First, Flashbacks: I experience them. They can occur for no reason and without warning, coming from out of nowhere, or during times of stress. Secondly, Sounds: Sometime with a backfire, helicopter fly-byes, hail bouncing on a roof, close hitting lightning or distant thunder will produce a flashback. I return to Vietnam and my experiences come back to me. Thirdly, Smells have an effect on me: There are several smells that can cause an event but the most forceful smells are: Diesel fumes from truck exhaust or the smell of vomit.
I will usually have an anxiety attack after bouts of anger. I wonder what the outcome of this anger will be in my personal life or business life. They have occurred in both, which has led to breakups of relationships, marriages and loss of employment.
Now its your turn to sit down and write! You may never need to use it other than for reference. If you go to a VA Vet Center, you will be asked many questions during your first interview/visit. The questions asked will answer most of the outline given above. But it is important to go to any Department of Veterans Affairs meeting as prepared as you can be so you know why they are asking these stupid personal questions!