PTSD Claims Based on Aggression by a Fellow Military Member

When a veteran’s claim of PTSD is based on a stressor incident in which he suffered from fear of hostile military or terrorist activity — and a VA examiner confirms that the claimed stressor incident is adequate to support a PTSD diagnosis — the veteran’s own testimony that the stressor incident is enough to prove that the stressor incident happened. In other words, the veteran does not have to gather documentation to prove that the stressor incident actually happened.

However, after a new case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, it is now clear that this rule is narrow and does not apply unless the aggressor is an enemy military force. Hall v. Shinseki addressed PTSD claims based on aggression by a fellow military member. The Federal Circuit determined that the above evidentiary rule does not apply where the claimed stressor incident involves aggression by a member of the U.S. military against another member of the U.S. military. Only aggression by an enemy force is sufficient. Thus, the rule does not apply in military sexual trauma cases. Of course, there is another special rule in place for military sexual trauma cases that makes it somewhat less onerous on the victim to prove that the sexual assault occurred.

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