War zone veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression will no longer have to show their condition is linked to a specific event in order to qualify for disability benefits. From now on, a diagnosis will suffice.
That's the right call for several reasons.
• One, PTSD can result from specific events or be the cumulative result of long exposure to combat conditions. The requirement to link the affliction to a specific event meant that a lot of those suffering could be denied treatment and disability benefits. The new rules, announced by President Obama on Saturday, reflect the reality of PTSD, rather than bureaucratic criteria at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
• The new rules give the benefit of the doubt to the veteran, which should be the rule of thumb in providing veterans' benefits. Once a diagnosis of PTSD is made, the presumption will be that it's service-related. Logic tells us that's a safe bet in most cases. Our all-volunteer forces are being asked to serve multiple deployments in war zones where the objectives and the end are unclear, the enemy is sometimes hard to identify and where the ambush -- from IEDs to suicide bombers to snipers -- is more common than pitched battle.
Yes, the troops volunteered and presumably go into the service these days with their eyes open and in the expectation that they will serve in combat zones, even if not assigned combat roles. But since 9/11, the nation has promised to care for those troops when they return wounded. Care is not a round of paperwork and testimony to show you were in convoy with casualties when an IED went off. Care is treatment and disability benefits when you've been diagnosed with PTSD by a qualified professional.
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