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Increasingly, veterans living with PTSD are turning to Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) for help. Read about three veterans and their animals in "The Role of Service Animals in Recovery."

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder than can develop after a person witnesses a traumatic event. A traumatic event can take many forms--a natural disaster, sexual abuse or a terrorist attack such as 9/11--but for veterans, PTSD is most often related to combat or military exposure.

In wars prior to Vietnam, the disorder was referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” and was not very well understood beyond the fact that it limited the soldier’s performance on the battlefield. Today, the disorder is more widely studied. We know that PTSD can lead to other mental health problems such as depression, social withdrawal and substance abuse.

The effects can also be long-term. According to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, one in three people who develop PTSD will continue to experience symptoms.

Recently the Veterans Administration changed the rules regarding claims related to PTSD. To get the most up-to-date information, see the statutes on pensions, bonuses and veterans’ relief online. For a summary of recent research see the March 2010 Final Draft Report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force.

Maj. Gen. David N. Blackledge discusses his own experiences with PTSD.
Listen to the podcast.
Maj. Gen. Blackledge

The good news is that more resources and treatments are available today. Some new treatments, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), are being investigated. Others, such as Virtual Iraq, a video game designed for exposure therapy, are still in development. NAMI's Advocate magazine examined the role of service animals in the treatment of PTSD. Additional information on service dogs is below.

Our PTSD section for veterans includes resources where you can find out more about PTSD, learn about treatments and read about how PTSD affects families and children of veterans.


Top Story

Purple Hearts for PTSD: Report Calls for Change in Military Culture
NAMI released a special report today, Parity for Patriots: The Mental Health Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families.

NAMI Says Defense Department AWOL on Mental Health Care for National Guard and Reserves
A statement from Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of NAMI, on National Guard mental health care crisis and access to care at stake in the U.S. Department of Defense Appropriations bill.


Understanding the Issue:

Parity for Patriots: The mental health needs of military personnel, veterans and their families
June 2012 - The report calls for Purple Heart medals to be awarded for psychological wounds like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and for military commanders at all levels to be accountable for suicide prevention and elimination of stigma.

Federal Budget and Spending Take Center Stage
Federal discretionary spending will come clearly into focus as President Obama unveils his FY 2012 budget and Congress moves forward on omnibus spending legislation for the remaining months of the current fiscal year (FY 2011).

PTSD - Intro
Introduction to PTSD section on NAMI's Veterans Resource Center

Veterans' Benefits Act of 2010 Signed Into Law
H.R. 3219 improves some of the services available to veterans, including homeless veterans.

Legislation for Veterans From 2007-2010: A Summary
This overview covers changes in VA appropriations, services for veterans and their families as well as mental health issues that occurred between 2007 and 2010.

Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2010
This legislation, effective Dec. 1, 2010, increases the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as compensation for survivors of certain disabled veterans.


NAMI's Position on the Issue:

U.S. Army Combat Veteran Testifies on Behalf of NAMI
Senate committee hears testimony from Iraq veteran calling for better mental health care.

Clarence Jordan Testimony on Behalf of Veterans, 3/10/2010
NAMI board member Clarence Jordan shared his perspective about the Veterans Administration with the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

NAMI's Where We Stand on Veterans
NAMI's position on the issue of veterans' mental health care.


NAMI's Advocacy Goals and Strategies:

Treating Veterans with Serious Mental Illness-The VA's Ability to Deliver Quality Care

Take Action!

Contact Your Representatives about Veterans' Issues
Use our online advocacy tool to send a letter to your elected officials right now and make your voice heard on these issues. Use our suggested text or compose a letter of your own.

Sign Up for E-News Alerts
Keep up with the latest developments on this issue by subscribing to NAMI E-News, our free action alert newsletter.

Other Resources:

The Sergeant Sullivan Center
The Sergeant Sullivan Center offers helpful information and resources for assisting post-deployed with guidance on their health care issues, including mental health care.

Post-deployment Brain Responses
Online: 15 minute lecture series from Massachusetts General Hospital on PTSD and other brain-related responses.

Tips for Filing a PTSD Claim with the VA
The Veterans Today blog posted a series of tips, resources and frequently asked questions regarding filing a PTSD claim.

VA Help Page for Veterans with PTSD
This page answers some basic questions about the claims process and links to other sources of help.

National Homeless Veteran Call Center

WOVEN—Women Veterans Network
A community of women veterans spanning all ages, services, ranks, experiences and geographies, the network is woven together by a common desire to connect for social support and camaraderie, share information and resources and serve our fellow veterans and local communities.

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Vietnam Veterans of America, Women Veterans Committee
Reports and information on a wide array of issues important to the women who served in Vietnam and other wars.

Women’s Health USA 2009
An easy-to-use collection of current and historical data on some of the most pressing health challenges facing women, their families and their communities.