Obama pledges help for veterans to address post-traumatic stress
President Obama said Saturday that the government is taking "a long overdue step" to aid veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, making it easier for them receive federal benefits.
The changes that Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki will announce Monday fulfill "a solemn responsibility to provide our veterans and wounded warriors with the care and benefits they've earned when they come home," Obama said in his weekly radio and online address.
The new rules will apply not only to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but also those who served in previous conflicts.
No longer will veterans have to prove what caused their illness. Instead they would have to show that the conditions at the time and place of their service could have contributed to their illness.
"I don't think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application," Obama said. "And I've met enough veterans to know that you don't have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war."
Veterans advocates and some lawmakers have argued that it sometimes could be impossible for veterans to find records of a firefight or bomb blast.
They also have contended that the old rules ignored other causes of PTSD, such as fearing a traumatic event even if it doesn't occur. That could discriminate against female troops prohibited from serving on front lines and against those who don't experience combat directly.
"This is a long overdue step," Obama said. "It's a step that proves America will always be here for our veterans, just as they've been there for us. We won't let them down. We take care of our own."
A study last year by the Rand Corp. think tank estimated that nearly 20 percent of returning veterans, or 300,000, have symptoms of PTSD or major depression.
-- Associated Press