People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings. They may avoid situations, places, or people that remind them of their traumatic experiences.
Having legal assistance can prevent PTSD symptoms from worsening and lead to self-harm or substance abuse. Lawyers can help veterans seeking medical support, legal action against MST perpetrators, and disability compensation for PTSD and other mental health conditions.
Provide Emotional Support
Veterans often face serious legal challenges, from navigating the VA bureaucracy to requesting discharge upgrades or clearing criminal records that prevent gainful employment. These issues can compound the emotional trauma survivors already endure.
Lawyers must understand the complexities of PTSD. For example, it’s common for people living with PTSD to have preexisting mental health conditions that can be confused with PTSD symptoms.
Practice trauma-informed advocacy. This includes an empathetic and gentle approach when discussing a veteran’s traumatic experience that lies at the center of their legal matter. It also means knowing when a client’s traumatic experiences are too complex to revisit so they can focus on the legal work at hand.
Help Survivors Understand Their Legal Rights
Survivors often need legal help related to family law, employment law, and accessing public benefits. They may also seek assistance with civil suits and other matters such as immigration, criminal cases, and housing issues.
For survivors seeking disability benefits, post-traumatic stress disorder lawyers can provide a wealth of knowledge and experience in applying for VA disability compensation. They can explain the rules and requirements, such as extra proof of a link between an in-service stressor and current PTSD symptoms like flashbacks, mood swings, sleep problems, being easily startled, and memory loss.
Attorneys can also help survivors understand other aspects of their case, such as the potential consequences of not filing documentation in court or reenacting difficult memories in front of a judge or law enforcement interviewers. For example, survivors often have to recount traumatic events in the presence of their abuser, which can trigger a subconscious response from their brains and cause them to act out or close up.
Encourage Survivors to Seek Mental Health Treatment
Many survivors struggle with PTSD and other mental health issues, including substance abuse, that are connected to their military service. They often find it difficult to seek treatment for these issues because of the stigma and other barriers, but legal advocacy is one way to help them break down those barriers and gain access to needed services.
Survivors can also benefit from access to veterans’ disability lawyers who can help them navigate the VA benefits process. If their PTSD claims have been denied, they can help them figure out where the VA made mistakes and file appeals.
For a veteran to qualify for disability benefits for PTSD, they must prove that their condition is related to their service. They need medical records that show a link between the in-service stressor and their current PTSD symptoms, which can include flashbacks, nightmares, memory problems, difficulty sleeping, irritability, aggression, and hypervigilance. Structured therapies can help survivors replace negative thoughts and behaviors with healthy ones and improve their quality of life.
Encourage Survivors to Engage in the Legal Process
Many survivors of VAW find the legal process to be a vehicle for justice and closure. However, functions like testifying against a trafficker or submitting a vacatur petition can be retraumatizing for survivors.
Lawyers need to practice trauma-informed advocacy, which includes being aware that traumatic experiences may be relevant to the legal matter at hand and taking steps to avoid unnecessarily reopening complex subjects with a client. This also means ensuring that legal professionals are familiar with the local and national resources available to veterans, including those that are specific to trauma and mental health.
Survivors need to work with a VA disability attorney who understands the unique circumstances of PTSD claims and can file appropriate appeals when necessary. These attorneys can provide the guidance and support Survivors need to navigate a confusing and often complex legal process. They can help them gather the evidence required to prove that their PTSD is service-related and ensure that their claim is granted at the highest level possible.