Veterans' Claims:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

HRD-87-22: Published: Jan 20, 1987. Publicly Released: Jan 29, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed 32 post-traumatic stress disorder cases to investigate allegations that the Veterans Administration's (VA) Buffalo Regional Office: (1) disapproved a high percentage of claims based on the disorder; (2) failed to timely process the claims; (3) awarded initial rating levels that were too low; and (4) failed to provide due process to post-traumatic stress disorder claimants.

GAO found that: (1) it could not determine the average rating level for all post-traumatic stress disorder cases or compare the regional office's rating levels with those of other offices, since neither the regional office nor VA maintained statistical data on these rating levels; (2) of the 32 claimants GAO reviewed, 23 were receiving benefits, 1 was denied benefits, and 8 were in the appeals process; (3) the 23 cases had a weighted-average rating at the 40 percent degree-of-disability level and an initial weighted-average rating at the 30-percent level; (4) deciding whether to request a psychiatric examination for claimants resulted in claims processing delays in a majority of the cases reviewed; (5) none of the 21 decisions the Board of Veterans Appeals rendered resulted in the return of a case to the regional office for lack of due process; (6) the regional office informed the claimants of their right to appeal; (7) Board reversals of regional office claims evaluations were generally due to different criteria followed for the event that caused the extreme stress; (8) the Board does not require verification of the event that caused the disorder if the veteran's account is consistent with the known facts; and (9) VA modified its policy to require only that the evidence provided reasonably supports the event that caused the stress. GAO believes that regional office corrective actions should reduce the processing time for these claims.

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