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Life has a strange way of being ironically coincidental.

Yesterday, the LA Times published an article on the perceived fear that Veterans are faking PTSD for a couple bucks.  (The author is pictured to the right).

The same day, the VA issued a new regulation that more sharply precludes many Veterans from claiming PTSD.

Let’s talk about the PTSD article, first.

We used to Call those who filed VA PTSD Claims “Combat Malingerers”.

Did you know that the VA used to describe PTSD – in the early days after and during WW2 and the Korean War  as  “Combat Malingering”?

People these days throw around the word thinking it means “faking”.  But inside the VA, the word “Malingering” is “Bureaucrat-Speak” for “those of weak mind”.  It’s an insulting and derogatory term that undercuts and cheapens the sacrifice and the horror that soldiers – peace-time and combat alike – were forced to experience for the sake of their country.

I’ve seen dozens of C&P reports from the 1940s – 1960s in which the VA labels Veterans who suffer from the mental and moral wounds of war as “of weak mind” or “of combat malingering”.

Yesterday, the LA Times printed an article by an Alan Zarembo  that harkens back to those days.

I hesitate to link to it, because I have a commitment to not linking to junk on the Veterans Law Blog.

But here is Alan Zarembo’s piece “As disability awards grow, so do concerns with veracity of PTSD claims.”

Mr. Zarembo’s work is very critical of Veterans.  In July 2014, he painted Veterans as “greedy” for going out an getting VA Benefits – a process he labelled as “easy”.

It is worth noting that while kids his age were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was sleeping, soundly, under the blanket of protection they provided. 

Yesterday’s latest from Mr. Zarembo ponders whether  the Veterans that fought in combat in Vietnam, OIF, and OEF are making stories up about PTSD to get a couple bucks.

We’ve talked about this nonsense of malingering before on the Veterans Law Blog.

Mr. Zarembo, the author, wanders through some random unsubstantiated numbers without any real analysis, journalism, or logical cohesion.

1) Concern that 150,000 +/- PTSD claims have been filed (without considering that this is less than 5% of the soldiers that fought in combat in Vietnam, Desert Storm, OIF/OEF, etc.

2) Unnamed, undated and uncited “studies”: a 2013 JAMA Study

3) A “paper” by Arthur Russo, with no citation or reference

4) The spurious allegation that Veterans help each other with VA claims in online forums.

5) Unsupported allegation about the firing of Gail Poyner – a doctor with a contract C&P examiner.

All in all, Mr. Zarembo’s piece resembled a 6th Graders’ Social Study essay more than it did real journalism.  Sorry to all the Gifted and Talented 6th Graders out there that produce far better investigative research and writing – don’t mean to insult you.

Mentioned nowhere in the article is that PTSD is a very real problem, for a great number of Veterans.  And many don’t tell their story out of fear that people will think they are “faking”.

Thanks for making their lives a lot harder, Mr. Zarembo.

The New VA PTSD Regs & other Mental Health Conditions.

Quietly, and without any mention from the VA, the powers-that-be snuck out a new “Interim Final Rule” regarding PTSD Claims.

You can read the new rule, here.

Bottom line up front – the VA is adopting DSM-V for diagnosing and determining the degree of impairment  – not only for PTSD, but for ALL mental health conditions.

The DSM-V makes some significant – and very contested – changes to the way that PTSD is diagnosed.

The rule is open for comment until October 3, 2014.  (Notice how the VA forces everyone else to consider and respond to the rule change in 60 days – when it took them 2+ years to write it.)

While it is not entirely clear WHICH claims this new “Interim Final Rule” will apply to, the rule itself states this:

“This interim final  rule is effective August 4, 2014.  The provisions of this interim final rule shall apply to all  applications for benefits that are  received by VA or that are pending  before the agency of original jurisdiction  on or after the effective date of this  interim final rule. The Secretary does  not intend for the provisions of this  interim final rule to apply to claims that  have been certified for appeal to the  Board of Veterans’ Appeals or are  pending before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, the United States Court of  Appeals for Veterans Claims, or the  United States Court of Appeals for the  Federal Circuit.”

I’m going to read a bit more about this and get you more information, but at first glance, it appears that if you are claiming a mental health condition and your appeal has not yet been certified to the BVA, you may have to go all the back to the Regional Office to get a new diagnostic exam.


  1. josh

    I was was diagnosed with PTSd by a licensed doctor but when I filed my claim I am told by a social worker for the VA I have anxiety according to the new book. Since when does a doctor get over taken by a social worker. I have black outs, violent dreams and such and according to the test u are put through I have signs but I cannot recall all events cuz I choose to forget them but my wife and kids live me eposoides everyday. Since when do they not count. Then to get told you knew what you signed up for. What the heck?

  2. Thomas

    I confronted Mr. Zarembo about his sources, he claims he used journal articles, I told give me the cite information because I have access to large databases via graduate school. Now he is stonewalling me. I serious doubt I will ever hear back from him. But he wanted to know whom I worked for, I told him I am a student doing a report. I wouldn’t doubt he works for the government.

    • Chris Attig

      Thanks for the feedback, Thomas…I too emailed Mr. Zarembo and have heard only crickets.

      I admire reporters that take on tough stories – even those that I disagree with. What I have no respect for are “writers” that appear to be nothing more than the mouthpiece for the VA doctors leading the charge against PTSD claims.

      Let us know if Mr. Zarembo ever mails his sources to you. I doubt he will – he doesn’t have those sources or he’d share them with you – but let me know anyway.


  3. Oswaldo Joubert

    This is not new, I’ve known about this adoption rule for atleast a year now and the diagnosis isn’t anything that a PTSD veteran will not pass as a diagnosis for PTSD. So not to worry, if you are being treated or in mental health in the VA or attempting to and you have a PTSD diagnosis it really shouldn’t change much. Don’t let these VA sympathizers and assholes that never served scare you off or give you second thoughts…for they are as I’ve encountered just assholes who for some ungodly reason have this jealousy streak inside them because they didn’t serve out of cowardice and dislike for the government they work for.

  4. ernie miller

    As usual Chris. your article about the new mental health rules is informative and disturbing.I recently received a 30% PTSD rating which I think is fair.The money that I get,however, does not stop my recurrent dreams.USMC-RVN,64,65,67.


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