This posting will briefly discuss how to prove the final element of a PTSD claim to the VA: medical evidence of a link between the current PTSD and the In-Service Stressor.
Generally speaking, if you can prove the first element – a current diagnosis of PTSD – you can prove this element. Why? Because your psychiatrist or treating physician’s report to the VA should include not only a discussion of the diagnosis of PTSD as discussed earlier, but also should include some information about the event which caused the PTSD.
While this evidence will not be helpful to prove that the in-service stressor occurred, it will help establish the link between that stressor and the PTSD.
How much evidence of a link do you need? The legal standard is that the evidence must be in “equipoise”. Evidence is in equipoise if there is an equal amount of evidence on either side of a particular argument. All you need to provide is enough evidence to show that the in-service event that caused your PTSD was a “contributing factor” to the PTSD.
As long as your medical report properly describes the symptomatology of your PTSD, adequately describes the stressor event, conforms to the DSM-IV, and acknowledges and reconciles reports that support a mental disorder other than PTSD, then you probably have enough evidence to show the third element of your claim.
A special note – if you have been treated (or diagnosed) for an anxiety disorder or PTSD while in the service, you should include these records in your claim for disability to the VA – the VA has a duty to assist you in finding these records or any records that can help prove your claim. Why should you include them? If you were treated for PTSD while in-service, then it is hard to imagine circumstances where the treatment wasn’t for the in-service stressor event, or an in-service event which aggravated or contributed to a prior or current diagnosis of PTSD.
If you have any questions about whether your medical evidence adequately proves a linkage between your current diagnosis of PTSD and in-service stressor, you should consult with a Veterans Service Organization or a VA Benefits Attorney.